PropertyProf Blog

Editor: Stephen Clowney
Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Water War Out West

The N.Y. Times details a growing battle between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana and a group of local farmers:

Dependable water supplies mean the difference between dead fields and a full harvest throughout the arid West, and the Flathead is no exception. Snowmelt flows down from the ragged peaks to irrigate fields of potatoes and wheat. It feeds thirsty cantaloupes and honeydew melons. Cutthroat trout splash in the rivers. Elk drink from the streams.

So when the government and the reservation’s tribal leaders devised an agreement that would specify who was entitled to the water, and how much they could take from the reservoirs and ditches, there was bound to be some discord. But few people expected this.

There have been accusations of racism and sweetheart deals, secret meetings and influence-peddling in Helena, the state capital. Lawsuits have been threatened. Competing Web sites have sprung up. Some farmers have refused to sell oats to those on the other side of the argument.

Steve Clowney

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