Governing Water Systems – Ordinances and Resolutions

Ordinances, in relation to water systems, are the written rules or laws adopted by Tribes or utility managers that establish water system operation, maintenance and management. Ordinances are enforceable and guide interaction with water and water/wastewater systems. Their purpose is to protect the integrity of the systems and ensure high-quality service for community members. For example, a Tribe may include an ordinance clarifying who is responsible for the section of pipeline connecting a home to the main line or outlining the cost and procedure for new home hook-up to the water system.

Resolutions, in relation to water systems,are official expressions of the opinion or will of the Tribe or utility managers, representing their official position on a specific issue or event. Resolutions are not enforceable. Their main purposes are to express support or opposition, or request that a specific action be taken, making them an important avenue for advocacy. For example, a Tribe may pass a resolution stating their opposition of the construction of a pipeline that threatens their drinking water source.

Ordinances and resolutions can be written in a confusing legal tone. Fortunately, there are many examples of Tribal water ordinances and resolutions available online. If your Tribe or managers are looking to establish or adopt new water/wastewater system ordinances or resolutions, take the time to review examples adopted by other Tribes. You may find that you can borrow from the language of ordinances and resolutions passed by another Tribe, making changes where necessary to adapt them to fit your community needs.

The National Indian Law Library offers a broad collection of example ordinances and resolutions. National Indian Law Library: Search Page will take you to their search page. Type “water ordinance” or “water resolution” into the search bar to browse a list of ordinances and resolutions adopted by Tribes across the country or click on the examples included in the lists that follow.

Example Ordinances

The following ordinances focus on water quality:

The following ordinances focus on water/wastewater systems:

The following ordinance focuses on enforcement of water ordinances:

Example Resolutions