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More Federal Funding Urged For White Mountain Apache Tribe Drinking Water Project

Three congressional Democrats from Arizona are calling on federal officials to fully fund a major water system for the White Mountain Apache Tribe. The long-delayed project has kept many residents without safe and reliable drinking water. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

In 2008, Congress approved $12 million to design the tribe’s Rural Water System and perform an environmental impact statement and other requirements. But the project still came up about $13 million short for infrastructure because of cost overruns and has gone unfinished.

Many residents and communities on the Fort Apache Reservation lack running water. Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema along with Congressman Tom O’Halleran are urging the U.S. Interior Department and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to allocate any possible funds available to finish the project.

They say a lack of running water increases a variety of health risks, including COVID-19. The 15,500-person White Mountain Apache Tribe had one of the highest infection rates in Arizona during last summer’s surge.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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