WorldWide Drilling Resource

16 FEBRUARY 2021 WorldWide Drilling Resource® 257 Caroline Street Punxsutawney, PA 15767 800-927-0560 • 814-427-2555 Fax: 814-427-5164 SERVING THE WATER WELL INDUSTRY Serving the Drilling Industry Navajo Nation’s Critical Water Shortage Compiled by Editorial Staff, WorldWide Drilling Resource ® The Navajo Nation, the largest reservation located on 25,000 square miles in the southwestern U.S., is facing an increasingly critical water shortage. Because they lack infrastructure and water resources available to most in the U.S., effects of the pandemic worsened exponentially. President of the Navajo Nation, Jonathan Nez, reports 30-40% of reservation residents have no running water in their homes. Hoping to alleviate the problem, Nez recommended using half of the tribe’s CARES Act money, about $300 million, for water projects. Legal experts believe this would be next to impossible since the long-term infrastructure projects would extend past the spending deadlines and might not even qualify for federal money. Most Americans use about 88 gallons of water per day, but on the Navajo Nation, some use only two or three gallons per day for all needs: eating, cooking, and cleaning. Due to the Navajo Nation’s exclusion from initial water policy negotiations, they are now fighting in federal courts but cannot use water until cases are resolved successfully. At least one case, water rights to the Little Colorado River, has continued in court for over 40 years. A major problem is wells in this sparsely-populated arid climate must be deep enough to reach groundwater; however, some groundwater has been contaminated by old uranium mines. In one local community, To’hajiilee, five of their six wells have run dry with the last well now providing only undrinkable water. Residents have been forced to resort to bottled water, also in short supply. Some help was offered by the New Mexico State Emergency Operations Center, which asked Bernalillo County to send water tankers. These much-needed transports have continued to provide water since March 13, 2020. Cindy Howe, manager for the Navajo Water Project, works to bring wells, water trucks, and plumbing to the reservation, also coordinating with local entities to bring hundreds of thousands of gallons of donated water to central access areas where the water supply is regulated to be safe to drink. She commented about how difficult it is for families to access this water because some must make a 100-mile round trip, while others do not even have a vehicle. With the ever-shrinking water supply in the southwest, even if the Navajo Nation wins their court cases, they may not be able to access the amount of water needed. Estimates state it would cost over $700 million to provide running water to all Navajo people. Howe continues to advocate for the Navajo Nation’s basic human right to water, promised to them in the 1908 Winters Doctrine. In the immediate future, she says they need more centralized locations for bigger storage tanks, but long-term access to running water for everyone is the ultimate goal. WTR Navajo water hauling station. Photo courtesy of Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency.