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Havasupai lawsuit aims to stop groundwater pumping

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Village of Supai

The village of Supai is located in Havasu Canyon, a side canyon of Grand Canyon, and its residents depend on spring-fed Havasu Creek for their livelihood. The tribe filed a lawsuit in federal court in early December seeking to stop groundwater pumping it says threatens seeps and springs on its reservation. 

The Havasupai Tribe is seeking to halt groundwater pumping on the Coconino Plateau that it says threatens the creek, seeps and springs upon which the tribe depends for its water.

In a lawsuit filed in federal district court in Arizona on Monday, the tribe contends the seeps and springs that feed the main creek that flows through the Havasupai village of Supai deep in Grand Canyon have become increasingly threatened by a growing number of groundwater wells. Those wells tap into the Redwall-Muave aquifer, which scientists have found is the source of many springs along the south rim of Grand Canyon.

The lawsuit names 19 defendants that own groundwater wells south of Grand Canyon, including the city of Williams and Energy Fuels Resources, the owner of Canyon Uranium Mine south of Tusayan.

“These wells will reduce the flow of the waters on the Havasupai’s lands thereby jeopardizing the Tribe’s sole water supply and its cultural identity,” the lawsuit said. It goes on to assert that the defendants’ groundwater pumping “constitutes a trespassory and unlawful interference” with the Tribe’s aboriginal and federally reserved water rights to the full flow of the creek, springs seeps and streams on its lands.

Havasu Creek is also the source of the waterfalls downstream of the village that draw thousands of tourists to the tribe's reservation each year.

Of the Havasupai Tribe’s 742 members, 542 live in the village of Supai, the only town on the reservation that is accessible only by foot, horse or helicopter.

Emery Cowan can be reached at (928) 556-2250 or ecowan@azdailysun.com

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