Transboundary Waters: Crossing Cultural Boundaries for Sustainable Solutions - Tamaya Conference - September, 2004

Project Description

This national by invitation conference was held August 31-September 3, 2004 at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort at Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico. Participants had the opportunity to talk, listen, gather information and build skills in using preventive diplomacy. The experience may help avoid costly litigation over shared waters and promote long-term, sustainable resource planning.

Comments from the 79 participants ( PDF document ) of our conference told us that it was successful in enhancing the understanding and skills of water users from diverse constituencies in negotiating water rights settlements. 28 of the participants were tribal members or representatives, 20 were from federal, state or municipal entities, 10 were irrigation or acequia representatives, 8 were environmentalists, and the rest were lawyers, judges, special masters, and others who did not identify with the specified groups.

In the Program ( PDF document ), presentations and panel discussions with national experts were interwoven with small group work where participants were assigned to play roles different from those they take in real life. Participants liked the hypothetical ( 1.6 mb PDF document ) and thought it gave them insights into other groups' points of view in a way they hadn't seen previously.

A panel discussion concerned the Jemez Valley watershed and background papers ( PDF document ) were developed to provide more details on water resource issues in that part of New Mexico. A video was produced for the conference about the Jemez watershed and the 1996 agreement between the Indian and non-Indian irrigators. The filmmakers were Mary Lance, Dale Kruzic, and Tom Zannes. For information about obtaining a copy of the video, contact Dale Kruzic at

People uniformly gave high marks to the panel of successes and to the judges’ panel dealing with the constraints on judicial decision-making and why negotiated settlements are usually more in the interest of the parties. Most people felt that developing relationships with other parties, good communications, and treating each other with respect was key to being able to settle difficult issues. The discussions between and about relationships between acequias and tribal communities were among the most fruitful.

Detailed notes ( Excel document ) taken during the conference provided the basis for the conference proceedings ( 3.97 mb PDF document ). The proceedings provide details on the perspectives of the participants; examples of successful water allocation collaborations; and insights from the judiciary on water rights adjudications and settlements.