Alternative Title

Zuni Heaven Water Rights Settlement


Zuni Tribe of the Zuni Reservation


Zuni Heaven Water Rights Settlement


Zuni Indian Reservation




Lower Colorado Region

Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC)

Lower Colorado River Basin


In Re General Adjudication of All Rights to Use Water in the Little Colorado River System and Source, CV 6417, Apache County Superior Court of the State of Arizona

Document Type

Settlement agreement


Zuni Tribe et. al

Publication Date



Settlement Agreement: Zuni Indian Tribe Water Rights Settlement in the Little CO River Basin (June 7. 2002) Parties: Zuni Indian Tribe, US, AZ, AZ Game & Fish Commission, AZ State Land Department, AZ State Parks Board, St. Johns Irrigation & Ditch Co., Lyman Water Co., Round Valley Water Users’ Ass’n, Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement & Power District, Tucson Electric Power Co., City of St. Johns, Town of Eagar, and Town of Springerville.

The Agreement resolves the Zuni Indian Tribe water rights in the Little CO River basin, AZ. The Zuni Tribe intends to reestablish and maintain the wetland environment that previously existed within its Zuni Heaven Reservation, Kolhu/walazwa, including restoration of water to its Sacred Lake, Hadin Kyaya. The restoration will require 5,500 acre-feet per year which will be obtained from unappropriated surface and groundwater, transfers from Zuni upstream and acquired surface rights. The purchased water rights’ priorities are described in the Norviel Decree. The process for adjudicating the Tribe’s existing water rights is described. The Little Colorado River Basin under the Norviel Decree will be declared fully appropriated as to surface water.

The Agreement protects non-tribal existing wells and requires that non-exempt wells be inventoried for presentation to the decree court; and Tribal pumping or use of 1,500 a/f/a on Zuni Pumping Lands or use of groundwater on Zuni Lands. Detailed provisions regarding new and existing wells in and around Zuni Heaven and for water quality monitoring are made.

Certain additional lands are to be taken into trust for the Tribe and the Tribe, AZ and Apache County shall execute an intergovernmental agreement regarding the lands. The lands shall not have federal reserved rights to surface water or groundwater but may have state law rights. The Tribe shall pay in lieu payments equal to ad valorem taxes assessed by any State, county, and local entity that would otherwise apply and shall grant easements and ROW across their lands.

The Tribe shall adopt a water code. Their water may be put to any use. It shall have jurisdiction over wildlife management on trust lands. The Tribe may use water on Zuni fee lands outside of Zuni Heaven. The Tribe may use water acquired under the settlement agreement for any use on Zuni Heaven or other Zuni lands. Water use on fee lands is subject to state law. The Tribe agrees to negotiate certain agreements with other parties to the settlement. There are extensive waivers and releases among the parties

The Treasury will create the Zuni Tribe Water Rights Development Fund, to be allocated among specified activities, including the acquisition of water rights for 2,350 acre-feet per year and restoration of the Zuni Heaven Wetland Restoration Project. The Tribe shall create a Tribal management plan for the Fund. The US shall contribute $19,250M; AZ shall contribute $1.613M; AZ Game & Fish shall contribute $5M for acquiring 1000 acre feet for the Wetlands Project, and expand the Stream Rehabilitation Program to the Reservation; SRPAI&PD will contribute $1M for providing a water supply to Sacred Lake and restoring riparian vegetation; and AZ State Land Department will quitclaim certain lands to the Tribe.

Zuni Heaven is a party in the AZ Superior Court, County of Apache in Civil No. 6417, In re General Adjudication of All Rights to Use Water in the Little Colorado River System and Source since 1979. [Source:]


Settlement Agreement. 126 pages.

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