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The Promise of Indian Water Leasing: An Examination of One Tribe’s Success at Brokering its Surplus Water Rights

September 30, 2014

After reaching water rights settlements, a number of Native American tribes find themselves with rights to more water than their reservations or pueblo communities presently need. As climate change exacerbates drought conditions in the western United States and demand for water increases, some tribes have leased these surplus water rights to public and private, non-Indian, users. Theoretically, this could be a boon for tribes, although the extent of the economic impact of water leasing is difficult to assess without an examination of each individual water lease. This paper attempts to illustrate the economic impact of Indian water rights leasing anecdotally, by examining the leasing efforts of one particularly successful tribe, the Jicarilla Apache Nation in northern New Mexico.

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