Division of Water Resources

The Division of Water Resources (DWR) advises the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and its Commissioner, the Assistant Secretary of Water and Science, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and its director, and the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. The Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for water management in the seventeen western states; this water passes through 492 dams, irrigates 60% of the vegetables produced in the United States, and flows through the taps of 31 million people. DWR handles all water issues that arise in the course of BOR projects, such as irrigation use, municipal and industrial use, and water for hydroelectric power production. The Bureau of Indian Affairs operates and maintains most of the irrigation projects delivering water to reservations and is supported legally by this Division on these matters. Examples of these projects include the Wapato Project on the Yakama Reservation and the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project at Flathead Reservation.  

The Associate Solicitor for the Division of Water Resources is Carter Brown. The general contact for DWR is 202-208-4393.

The Branch of Water and Power (WP) advises BOR as it manages its extensive portfolio of water projects, ensuring that in the course of developing and operating and managing these projects, BOR complies with environmental laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act and goes through the proper steps for environmental compliance. This means that the WP attorneys must also work at the state level on water needs and with individual water users such as farmers, cities, and irrigation districts. The Branch coordinates with regional offices, leveraging national resources for issues that may have broader implications, a larger geographical spread, or a higher public profile.  

The Branch of Indian Water Rights (IWR) advises on a particularly important aspect of water management and ensures that the water rights of Tribes are considered, determined, and honored. The Branch’s work can be broken down into three general areas: water rights, BIA irrigation projects, and FERC-related hydropower projects. IWR works with Tribes and the Department of Justice to determine the scope and amount of the water rights to which the Tribes are entitled and seeks to quantify those amounts through general stream adjudications and Congressional settlements. An important part of the quantification process involves working with the Secretary’s Indian Water Rights Office, and the Branch strives to protect Tribes’ rights, whether they have been formally quantified or not. When it comes to private hydroelectric projects that may affect reservations, the Branch develops conditions and recommendations in the licenses that FERC provides, in order to protect Indian land and resources.  

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