When we think of communities struggling with access to and the availability of clean water, our thoughts typically go to far-off places. Digging wells in African nations is a familiar concept to many, but for those of us living in the United States, it often hasn’t occurred to us that water security could be an issue in our own country, too. The Navajo Water Project is a nonprofit that urges us to change that mindset.
It’s an offshoot of DigDeep, an organization which identifies not as a charity, but as “a human rights non-profit working to ensure that every American has clean, running water forever” (source). And with the Navajo Water Project, these efforts are concentrated on the Navajo Nation, a community that has long struggled with the problem of accessibility to clean water and sanitation.
Barriers to Water Access
There are 170,000 tribespeople living on the reservation (source), and according to the organization, 40% of those Navajo families must haul water each day because of a lack of running water in their home (source). In many cases, water is delivered by truck to homes on the Navajo Nation, but much of what is distributed is stored in barrels and used up before the date of the next delivery, leaving families to scramble or go without in the meantime. Water sources local to the Nation have often been contaminated by uranium mining in the area, making it unsafe to use, although when resources run low families must sometimes resort to it anyway. It’s a bleak reality made all the worse because most Americans don’t even realize it’s a problem in the first place.
The Navajo Water Project is focused on providing running water to Navajo households in New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. In areas where piped water would be cost-prohibitive due to the rural and scattered population, they dig wells, install cisterns and home water systems, and fund water delivery trucks to keep water running through the homes. In addition to providing water to individual households, they have also tackled special projects, such as installing a water filtration system at St. Michael’s Association for Special Education. The school, whose tap water smelled and even ran black at times, had been forced to spend some of their resources to purchase bottled water until DigDeep helped them to purify the water coming in.
It’s just an example of the kind of work that DigDeep is doing with the Navajo Water Project to improve the lives of those living without running water in the Navajo Nation.
A Community Collaboration
The organization works directly with the community members to make sure that their efforts are implemented in ways that best benefit those serviced, and though much work remains, they’ve made great strides to bring water security to the Navajo Nation. “With dedication and money,” writes George McGraw–founder of DigDeep–in an op-ed for the New York Times, “water poverty on the Navajo Nation could be eradicated within a decade.” DigDeep and the Navajo Water Project are working to make that a reality, but they need our help to do so.
To support this remarkable endeavor, you can donate to the Navajo Water Project here by making either a generalized donation, or by sponsoring part or whole of a water system. You can also purchase gift items here, including items made by hand by Navajo artists, with proceeds going to support the project. For more ways to help DigDeep, check out this page; or, if you’re a college student in the Los Angeles area and want to get involved, you can apply for a fellowship at DigDeep here.
Additionally, for anyone looking to learn more about the Navajo Water Project and the situations it addresses, check out these articles for further information:
- “The Navajo Nation Can’t Go It Alone in Their Struggle for Clean Water” (Vice)
- “For These Americans, Clean Water is a Luxury” (New York Times)
- “On The Navajo Nation, Special Ed Students Await Water That Doesn’t Stink” (NPR)
- “For Many Navajo, A Visit From The ‘Water Lady’ Is A Refreshing Sight” (NPR)
Access to clean water is a necessity and a human rights issue, one that far too many Americans still struggle with. Supporting organizations like DigDeep and the Navajo Water Project is a great step in changing that, and one worth paying attention to.
For more of my charitable spotlights, please see here. Have a marvelous week!