Arizona Court of Appeal Revives a 2011 Wastewater Snow Case

The court of Appeal in Arizona has revived a lawsuit that was filed by the Hopi tribe against the decision by northern Arizona’s ski resorts to use treated wastewater to obtain snow on a mountain that the community considers holy and sacred.

The lawsuit was first filed in 2011, at the Coconino County Court. In the 2011 lawsuit, the tribe claimed that the scheme to sell recycled water to the Snowbowl ski resort qualified to be termed as a public annoyance and would have negative impacts on the people and natural plants living around the San Francisco mountain peaks. The community had disputed the presence of the ski resort on the hills range long before even the ski resort initiated plans to start using wastewater to prolong its season.

The Lawsuit

The case was first dismissed by the court in 2012 by a superior court adjudicator citing multiple failures of similar lawsuits in the past. However, a three-judge panel agreed that the tribe tabled undeniable evidence that the effects of the recycled water were devastating to its members.

The tribe cited several cases of special injury that constituted a public nuisance. Most of the injury cases cited in the case occurred as a result of contact between the wastewater and numerous ceremonial materials that are usually collected by the members of the Hopi tribe during pilgrimages as well as the environmental effect of the water to the surrounding areas.


In their ruling, the three judges noted that the numerous natural amenities that members of the Hopi community gather as well as the sacred areas, springs on the peak of the mountain, and sacred areas would undeniably come in contact with the wastewater. This contact will negatively affect the wellbeing of the Hopi tribe and the utilization of the surrounding wilderness area.

According to the lawsuit, members of the Hopi tribe claim that the mountain range is a holy and sacred place of worship and also serves as a home to the kachina spirits that are an integral part of the tribe’s religion.

The reopening of the lawsuit contradicts the decision by the Arizona Appeal court which ruled that the use of the wastewater by the ski resort wasn’t illegal or unreasonable nor was there concrete evidence that the wastewater could cause harm to the complainants.