Press Release: Senators Introduce Bill Prohibiting Presidential Water Grab

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) today introduced S. 1416, a bill to prevent the president from changing the federal water-rights designation of lands declared to be national monuments.

When the president federalizes land by declaring it a national monument, it can both limit public access and change the water rights associated with the land. In short, the president can unilaterally expand the federal reserved water rights associated with existing federal lands simply by cloaking it in a national-monument designation.

This measure would simply restrict the type of water rights that are associated with the monument when it is designated without congressional approval. Changing the nature of water rights can have negative consequences for private property owners who have land and water rights near the newly minted monument. This bill would ensure that the president can no longer conduct “water grabs” by unilaterally expanding federal water rights.

“Utahns know that monument designations can have serious implications for privately held water rights,”Hatch said. “Utah is the second driest state in the nation, and water development is vital to our way of life. This commonsense bill ensures a role for Congress in addressing unilateral land grabs by the executive branch.” 

“It is unimaginable that the president can expand federal reserved water rights simply with the stroke of a pen,” said Flake. “It’s time to veto the presidential water right – and safeguard private property rights – by limiting this kind of unchecked authority.”

 “I’m hearing from a growing number of my constituents in Arizona who are concerned that a so-called ‘Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument’ would take away their ability to enjoy and utilize about 1.7 million acres of public land located outside the Grand Canyon National Park boundaries,” said McCain. “If the Obama Administration moves forward with this proposed monument, it has the potential to ‘federalize’ the area’s watershed and uproot critical water rights in Arizona. Our bill seeks to pump the brakes on what would be an illegal water grab by the federal government.”

"The Antiquities Act is, as its name suggests, a 100 year old law that is in desperate need of reform," said Lee. "This bill looks to protect water rights owners from further abuse by the president's executive pen."

The text of the bill can be viewed here.