FARMINGTON, NM – The Department of the Interior commemorated the completion of a major component of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project (NGWSP) that will deliver water to communities within the Navajo Nation and Jicarilla Apache Nation through the Cutter Lateral, a recently constructed water treatment pipeline that delivers clean water to over 1,500 households. Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo and Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez joined tribal leaders at an event celebrating the transfer of operation, maintenance and replacement responsibilities of the Bureau of Reclamation-owned reaches of the project to the Navajo Nation and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority.
When complete, the NGWSP will include approximately 300 miles of pipeline, two water treatment plants, 19 pumping plants and multiple water storage tanks. The NGWSP will address the needs of the Navajo Nation, where one in three people do not have indoor plumbing and are forced to haul drinking water to their homes. In addition to the 43 chapters on the Navajo Nation, the NGWSP will also deliver clean drinking water to the southwest area of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation and the City of Gallup, NM.
“Water is a sacred resource, and water rights are crucial to ensuring the health, safety and empowerment of tribal communities,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “The Department of the Interior continues to make significant progress towards the fulfillment of our trust responsibilities, particularly to ensure that tribal communities receive the water resources they have long been promised. I am grateful that tribes, some of whom have been waiting for this water and funding for decades, are finally getting the resources they are owed.”
“As we battle a historic drought in the West, the Department of the Interior is committed to ensuring that clean, safe drinking water is available to all Americans,” said Assistant Secretary Trujillo. “Today’s announcement is a significant milestone towards our goal of building resilient communities, protecting water supplies, and honoring our relationships with tribes. It is imperative that we have reliable conveyance systems to deliver water, and today marks critical progress in making that happen.”
The NGWSP is the cornerstone of the Navajo Nation Water Rights Settlement in the San Juan River Basin in New Mexico and was authorized for construction by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. Construction began in 2012 and is scheduled to be completed by 2029. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included a total of $2.5 billion to implement the Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund, with $123 million included for fiscal year 2022 for design and construction of the NGWSP.
The Bureau of Reclamation plans to use Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments and additional federal resources to fully fund four existing construction contracts that have been incrementally funded to date, as well as two new construction contracts set to be awarded later this fiscal year. The funding will be injected into the local economy immediately and lead to new jobs to continue project construction.
The NGWSP has two separate pipeline laterals (water transmission systems) that will provide water for the entire project: the Cutter Lateral and San Juan Lateral. The Cutter Lateral takes water from the Cutter Reservoir, a feature constructed originally for the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project, using transmission pipelines and pumping plants to deliver the raw water to the Cutter Lateral Water Treatment Plant (CLWTP) for treatment and delivery to the Navajo Chapters Huerfano, Tiistohsikaad (Burnham), Nageezi, Counselor, Ojo Encino, Torreon/Star Lake, Whitehorse Lake, and Pueblo Pintado and the Jicarilla Apache Nation.
Construction of the Reclamation reaches of the Cutter Lateral was completed in October 2020, after which Reclamation and the Navajo Nation began “pre-commissioning” activities. This period included the completion of construction of the downstream reaches by the Navajo Nation and the systematic introduction of drinking water from the CLWTP into the individual community water systems – seven distribution systems initially. Reclamation declared substantial completion of the Cutter Lateral and marked the end of the successful one-year commissioning, or testing, phase of the project on October 6, 2021.