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KNAU and Arizona News

Two bills in Congress aim to expand water access on tribal lands

Navajo Water Project
Dig Deep/Navajo Water Project
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It's estimated that up to 16,000 households, or about a third of all residents on the Navajo Nation lack running water and have to haul it from filling stations around the reservation. Officials say it's very time consuming and about 67 times more expensive than using a municipal water source.

Two pieces of legislation that would expand access to drinking water on tribal lands are under consideration in Congress. It’s estimated that about a third of households on the Navajo Nation lack indoor plumbing.

One bill in the U.S. House would waive or reduce cost-share requirements for drought and water projects on tribal lands. It’s part of the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program, which recently awarded grants for Cameron, Arizona as well as one Utah community on the Navajo Nation with a combined 200 homes that lack access to water. Tribal officials say if it’s passed the legislation would allow more of the grants to be secured.

Another bill being debated in committee would pump nearly $750 million into multiple federal sanitation and rural water supply programs for tribes. Navajo officials say despite receiving funding from last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the projects have been chronically underfunded.

Navajo Nation officials say up to 16,000 homes on the reservation lack running water. It forces residents to haul water from filling stations on the reservation, which is estimated to be about 67 times more expensive than using a municipal water system. According to the nonprofit Navajo Water Project, members of the tribe are much more likely than other Americans to live without running water or a toilet.