Arizona v. Navajo Nation: A Crucial Legal Battle Amidst the Southwest’s Drought Crisis

Navajo Nation in the American Southwest is involved in a Supreme Court case about access to water on the reservation. How might the justices rule?

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On March 20, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Arizona v. Navajo Nation, wherein the Navajo Nation argued that the United States government breached its legal responsibility to ensure access to water on the Navajo reservation. The American Southwest is currently experiencing its worst drought in 1,200 hitting the Navajo Nation harder than anyone. Navajos use 8-10 gallons of water per day — about a tenth of the average American — and 30% of Navajos have no running water. The oral argument was interesting for a few reasons. There is unlikely to be an even split between the conservative and liberal justices, and it is very unclear which way the justices will rule. If the Navajo Nation win, it will only be the beginning of their battle. And if the United States win, they may have inadvertently set themselves up for future liability based on their long history of interfering with the Navajo Nation’s water. Ethan breaks down what Arizona v. Navajo Nation is about, how the justices might rule, and the strange concession that the U.S. attorney made repeatedly throughout the hearing in this week’s “Tip of the Iceberg.”

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Writer: Ethan Brown, Velina Georgi, Mo Polyak, Madeleine Salman

Fact Checker: Hallie Cordingley

Editor: Megan Antone

Producers: Ethan Brown, Hallie Cordingley, Shannon Damiano

Ad Voiceover: Megan Antone

Music: Brett Sawka

The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the host and guests. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Peril and Promise or The WNET Group.

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The Sweaty Penguin
The Sweaty Penguin is a digital news source and podcast aiming to make environmental issues less overwhelming and politicized and more accessible and fun.


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