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OK Water Rights Pit Indian Tribes vs. Oklahoma

by Kenneth E. DuBose on August 23, 2011

Indian Tribes in Oklahoma have sued in an effort to defend water rights from the state of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City. The drought in the south has cities scrambling to make sure there is adequate water supply. The city of Houston recently announced it was moving water from Lake Conroe to Lake Houston in an effort to replenish its water supply. The problem in Oklahoma is that Sardis Lake’s water rights possibly belong to the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian tribes.  If this drought continues, I’m willing to bet this is just the first of many water disputes. Especially in places like South Texas, where ranchers, farmers, cities, and the oil & gas industry are all in need of the scarce resource.

The Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian tribes in Oklahoma have filed a federal lawsuit to protect water rights they say derived from long-ago treaties and to prevent exports of water from their traditional homelands without their permission.

The dispute had been simmering for more than a year, since the export of water from Sardis Lake in southeastern Oklahoma to Oklahoma City was proposed in June 2010.

The lawsuit, filed late Wednesday in United States District Court in Oklahoma City, accuses the State of Oklahoma of one-sided action to deprive the tribes of water rights they have held since the 1830s. It names the governor, the state water agency, Oklahoma City and that city’s water utility as defendants.

Read the full news release at nytimes.com

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