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Tribal Water Codes –

Their Administration and Enforcement


Codification of a Tribal Water Code, like the drafting of all laws, is the act of anticipation, not the act of prediction.  Codification of a Tribal Water Code should be distinguished from quantification of water rights. Codification of reserved water rights is an essential act of sovereignty. Because each tribe will have to individualize the reasoning for regulation of water quality and water management and because jurisdictional issues on a tribe’s reserved water rights will never be the same twice, existing case law will not clearly or fully answer the question of a Tribal Water Code’s enforceability. Each tribe should undertake the process of laying the groundwork and establishing the need and purpose of its existing or new water code. A discussion of some relevant case law on the matter of Tribal Water Codes follows.