Thursday, February 9, 2012
Week # 1: Indigenous Water Rights Issues in Other Regions: North America and Australia- by F.B.J.
One of the most universal needs of any community is sufficient access to potable water. The pursuit of sufficient access to water is not a struggle unique to the Naqab/Negev Bedouin. Many other indigenous communities have met similar issues, with varying results. While no other group faces exactly the same situation as the Bedouin in the Naqab/Negev area, many informative parallels can be drawn from the experience of other indigenous groups. From these experiences, two patterns emerge: indigenous groups are often not considered or not consulted about water use decisions in areas where water is a scarce resource, and even favorable results from litigation have often been ineffective at accomplishing actual change on the ground.
One example that embodies both of these problems is covered in Arizona v. California, a Supreme Court case arising out of water usage plans in the American Southwest.
This decision granted Native reservations specific acre-foot water rights out of Arizona’s general allotted acre-feet of water, and created a quantified method of allotting those rights to different reservation groups.
When the water use plans for the region, the Central Arizona Project (CAP), were finalized in 1968, after the outcome of Arizona v. California, the native groups affected had not been consulted once.
This is despite the fact that 15,000 acres of reservation land would be flooded as a result of a dam planned out in the CAP.
The issue was not fully settled until the late 1970s, when federal funding was cut off by Carter administration.
A more stable agreement was made in the 1990s, which allotted a specific yearly acre-footage of water to the reservation and provided development money for agriculture and other water usage projects on the reservation.
Similarly drawn-out disputes have been characteristic of indigenous water rights issues in the Pacific Northwest as well.
Australian aboriginal water rights issues. Aborigines seeking full legal ownership of northern Australian waters.
Indigenous water rights in the Andes are similar in their failure to include the affected people in water rights or sale discussions.
Indigenous groups’ attempts to use water rights even after successful litigation are often met with resistance that continues for generations. One example is with Native American groups in the southwest, where, despite a 1908 Supreme Court ruling in their favor, groups are still struggling to actualize their water rights.