Water Rights in the San Juan River Basin in New Mexico

San Juan River Adjudication

The San Juan River Adjudication is to adjudicate the water rights of all claimants to the use in New Mexico of waters of the San Juan River stream system, including the rights of Indian tribes and non-Indian water users. The current adjudication will allow for inter se proceedings between the non-Indian claimants and the Indian tribes, and for the consideration of permits and licenses issued since entry of the Echo Ditch Decree in 1948 and of historic use since entry of the decree. The Office of the State Engineer maintains a separate web site of adjudication activity for the San Juan Basin.

Non-Indian Water Rights

The Echo Ditch Decree in 1948 adjudicated non-Indian water rights in the San Juan River Basin in New Mexico. Since 1948, the State Engineer has issued permits and licenses for new appropriations and for transfer of decreed rights to other uses. The Office of the State Engineer’s New Mexico Water Rights Reporting System database contains abstracts of decreed, licensed and permitted rights for the basin and document images of water rights files. The reporting system does not include federal reserved water rights.

Jicarilla Apache Nation Water Rights

A settlement of the Jicarilla Apache Nation’s claims to the use of waters in and from the San Juan River Basin was approved by the Jicarilla Apache Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 1992, which act also approved a Navajo Reservoir water supply contract for the tribe as a part of the settlement. The Court in the San Juan River Adjudication in 1999 entered a Partial Final Decree adjudicating the water rights of the Jicarilla Apache Nation in the basin in New Mexico.

Navajo Nation Water Rights Settlement Agreement

The State of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation on April 19, 2005, signed the San Juan River Basin in New Mexico Navajo Nation Water Rights Settlement Agreement to resolve the claims of the Navajo Nation for the use of waters of the San Juan River Basin in New Mexico. The agreement is intended to adjudicate the Navajo Nation’s water rights and provide associated water development projects for the benefit of the Navajo Nation in exchange for a release of claims to water that could potentially displace other water uses in the basin. In 2009, the Northwestern New Mexico Rural Water Projects Act approved the agreement. The State of New Mexico, the Navajo Nation and the United States are preparing final settlement documents that conform to the act, including a final settlement agreement, proposed decrees describing the water rights of the Nation, and a Navajo Reservoir water supply contract for the Nation’s water uses under federal projects. The proposed water rights of the Navajo Nation will be subject to inter se proceedings in the San Juan River Adjudication.

Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Water Right Claims

A portion of the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation is situated in the State of New Mexico, but the Tribe has no resident population within the State. The Tribe, and the United States on behalf of the tribe, has filed water rights claims in the San Juan River Adjudication.