The Navajo Nation Is Experiencing a Water Crisis

By Yessenia Funes Apr 13, 2017

Since the water crisis in Flint, Michigan began in 2014, more similar crises have made headlines: East Chicago, Indiana; East Porterville, California and, now, Arizona’s Navajo Nation.

NPR went to the southwestern Native community to explore what its water situation is like in a report published yesterday (April 12). One-third of the Navajo Nation doesn’t have running water.

The story zooms in on the reservation’s Saint Michael’s Association for Special Education, a school for children with disabilities. Here, the water may spew yellow, brown or even black.

“It has a certain stench to it. Sometimes you’ll smell … kinda like a egg smell," says Felencia Woodie, whose eight-year-old son attends the school.

The school serves students who require medical equipment which needs to be cleaned daily. The staff must use five-gallon water jugs to clean it as using the discolored tap water makes them uneasy—even though the water technically meets national primary drinking water standards.

NPR goes on to explain more clearly:

While it’s not poisonous, there is still the matter of appearance.

"People typically won’t drink water if it tastes bad or if it looks bad or if it stinks," says Adam Bringhurst, who studies water resources at Northern Arizona University.

He says the Environmental Protection Agency has established two levels of standards. The primary standard — filtering contaminants that harm your health — is required by law. The secondary standard — eliminating taste, color and smell — is voluntary.

The school spent almost $3,000 last year on bottled water, reports NPR. The costs that put a strain on the school. Digdeep, a water-focused nonprofit, is now raising $100,000 to build a water filtration system for Saint Michael’s with the hopes that the project will be finished this summer.

This issue isn’t something just the Navajo are experiencing: According to Indian Health Services, 26,000 American Indian and Alaska Native homes lack access a safe water supply and/or waste disposal facilities.

(H/t NPR)