Ariz. Supreme Court rules Congress did not reserve water rights for state trust lands

The Colorado River Basin states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

By Felicia Fonseca

The Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Congress did not intend to reserve water rights for state trust lands, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in settling a question important to resolving claims to the Little Colorado and Gila rivers.

State officials had argued that when Congress granted the land to Arizona for universities, government buildings, prisons and other institutions, it established a trust similar to creating reservations for American Indian tribes and, therefore, implied reserved water rights.

The high court said land grants are different in that they are not the product of negotiated agreements or treaties. It also rejected Arizona’s argument that Congress meant to reserve water rights for state trust lands because lawmakers were aware that water was needed to make use of the arid land.

“Support of the common schools and other specific institutions undoubtedly serves the public interest,” the court wrote in its ruling. “It is not, however, a federal purpose.”



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