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[Alternative Dispute Resolution]

Alternative dispute resolution, or ADR, is a catchall term that describes numerous methods used to resolve disputes outside of regular courts and administrative law courts.  The common benefits of ADR proceedings are that they are faster, more flexible, less formalistic, less expensive, more accessible, and less adversarial than a court trial.

With specific regard to water use and related disputes on the Navajo Nation, ADR is a term that includes the TCOB Water Code Section (WC’s) use of informal peacemaker-type procedures.  These procedures are based on old-time Navajo mediation techniques of listening to all sides, searching for alternatives, maintaining community harmony as much as possible, and seeking solutions from the disputants themselves whenever practicable.  The WC routinely employs these techniques in mediating disputes between and among water users, well drillers, and affected landholders, and between these interests and the Department of Water Resources, or other interests and the Department, when water-related conflicts of almost any kind arise.

The WC’s overriding motivation in every case of ADR is the public health, safety, and welfare.  As a public agency of the Navajo Nation, charged with regulating use of a public resource, the WC has an abiding duty to the Nation, and all its citizens, collectively, to assert and protect the best interests of the Nation and the public at large.

Anyone with a water-related dispute (other than with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, or NTUA) is encouraged to contact the Water Code Section about the dispute prior to seeking redress in court.  In a number of cases, this can save years worth of stress, inter-personal conflict, expense, public safety concerns, and community discord.

The WC will assign one or more appropriate staff members to take a stepwise analytical approach to resolving the issue between the disputants.  It is important to note there will often be situations wherein established Navajo Nation law and policy, unknown at the time to the disputants, will lead to a prompt resolution of a dispute by informed WC staff.