Secretary Jewell Signs Water Rights Agreement
July 30, 2013
Today is a truly historic day. Its a day that I know the White Mountain Apache nation has worked decades on, in terms of bringing a resolution to their water rights claims. It's a historic day because this agreement will secure safe drinking water for future generations of those members living on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.
This water rights agreement is as important to the future survival of the White Mountain Apache tribe as the peace we negotiated with the United States Army in 1871 to remain on our aboriginal land. Take a moment the next time you sit at your desk, and imagine a not too distant future. A young child, in the small village of Carrizo, on our reservation, stepping up to a kitchen sink and opening a faucet for a clean and refreshing drink of water. No longer will black water from old wells pour from that faucet.
This opens a new chapter for tribal water rights, so I am proud to sign this agreement on behalf of the Obama administration. I know that hard work remains. We will be your partners in following through on that hard work to get it done: to make sure that the pipelines are laid, that the water resources are fulfilled, and that clean water flows as you so eloquently said.
When I was a kid growing up in White River, next to the Lupe family, we always had a big pan of water on the stove. It was water that had been boiled and we could drink from it. It wasn't until years later that I realized that in the rest of this country at that time, you could turn on a faucet, put a glass under, and drink that water. So today is a lifetime dream come true.
The White Mountain Apache people have the privilege of living in some of the most beautiful, productive country in the United States. I have a cabin not too far outside the reservation in the White Mountains, because I love it so much. But there's one problem. The snowfall and the rain that falls or flows downhill. And it flows through the reservation. And so for years, the White Mountain Apache people have said, "Wait a minute, we need that water. Can we find some way to use it? And not have it all flow down the hill. " And this settlement enables that through the construction of the dam and the project which will deliver real, clean, wet, drinkable water to the Apache people.
This settlement is the complete package. And because all those values, whether they were water supply, environmental restoration - were all important to the tribe as part of their culture. And so this settlement brings those items together for the long term benefit of the White Mountain Apache people.
Actually, what will happen is there will be a lot of faucets and a lot of sinks where people will be able to turn on those taps and get clean drinking water.