Why the Supreme Court has ruled that California’s ‘water law’ violates the rights of Native Americans The Hill
Posted by The Hill on September 16, 2018 07:01:04In the waning days of the Trump administration, a group of Native American activists has been filing a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s “water law,” which has made it a criminal offense to drink the water of any Native American reservation.
The lawsuit filed Friday in the Southern District of California argues that the state “violates” the federal Indian Water Drinking Act, a 1964 law passed to help ensure that water is available to all Americans, when it allows for the “excessive and unnecessary imposition of the burden of proof” on the tribes that drink water from their own lands.
In doing so, the tribe argues, the California law “violated the Indian Water Rights Act, which protects tribes from unreasonable burdens imposed on their water supply, and it violated the Native American Water Rights Protection Act, the federal law protecting tribal water rights.”
The law requires that tribes get a permit from the state before they can use water on reservations, but the tribe argued that that’s not enough.
The tribe wants the state to require it to get a federal permit before it can tap into their own water supply.
It’s a key part of the tribe’s argument in its lawsuit against California, which it says “violently intrudes upon its right to use the water for its own purposes and to use it for its tribal purposes without regard to whether it is used for those purposes or not.”
In its lawsuit, the group argues that California has failed to provide the tribal community with adequate information on the rules it must follow before they use their water for the purposes of its reservation.
The group says it has been fined more than $10 million for not complying with the water law.
California has been fighting the lawsuit for months, and the Trump White House has been working on a response.
The White House and the State Department said the state is not required to provide its own information about its rules.
“State law requires the State of California to provide all public agencies, including water providers, with the information and guidance that is required to ensure compliance with the Water Law,” the White House said in a statement.
“The State of New York has been in compliance with all the water laws it was required to comply with by the state.”
In the end, the Trump Administration appears to be working to make sure that this lawsuit is not a last resort, with Deputy Attorney General Chad Read saying Friday that the Trump Justice Department would be reviewing it in the coming days.
“The Trump Administration will continue to work with the Native Nations in this matter and will take all appropriate actions to ensure that the tribal rights are protected in the future,” Read said in the statement.