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Science and Innovations

Navajo, Hopi Nations Have High Rates Of "Plumbing Poverty"

Courtesy of Shiloh Deitz

Researchers at the University of Oregon used Census data to make the first nationwide map of what they call “plumbing poverty”—households that lack running water, a shower, or a toilet. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports the Navajo and Hopi Nations stand out dramatically. 

The study found nationwide Native American households are nearly 4 times as likely to lack complete plumbing. In Arizona’s Navajo and Apache counties, those odds jump to 13 times as likely.

Lead author Shiloh Deitz says plumbing poverty affects nearly half a million U.S. households. Race and ethnicity remain a factor even after income and type of house are considered. 

She says, "Looking at the map, we hope that policymakers  and water managers can see, OK, this is an area of high need, and investigate what’s going on and why it’s been going on, and what might be done to ameliorate that inequality."

It’s estimated 40 percent of Navajo households lack running water. The study did not measure related factors like water quality or cost.

Read the study here (may be behind paywall).

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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