On Reservations throughout Indian Country, there are thousands of families and elders who do not have clean running water. No water to drink. No water to wash, cook or bathe with. Obtaining water means driving miles to fill up containers, buckets, barrels and water tanks that will last them a week or two if they ration the precious liquid carefully.
For three years, through our Mni Wiconi (Water is Life) program, we have been connecting households without access to running water to the main service line which runs through the Pine Ridge Reservation.
In December 2016, in response to the great need and demand for a similar program on the Navajo Nation in Arizona we initiated our Diné Naabeehó Tó (the Navajo People’s) Water Challenge, providing water to families and elders who had no choice but to drive long distances for just a few days’ worth of water.
Since we began our first project on the reservation just over two years ago, we have completed 23 water connection hook-ups with six more pending.
Among those who have been helped is hydrant recipient Victoria who told us, “I have 2 grandkids” (a nine and a five year-old). She noted that the household appreciates “what you all doing for us. Now I don’t have to haul water, especially this kind of weather, muddy.” Most importantly, she no longer has to travel up the Chuska mountain in Tsaile, Arizona to get it.
The cost to simply run a water line and install an outside hydrant is roughly $5,000 per household. This is not an exorbitant amount, but it’s well out of reach for the hundreds of Navajo families and elders struggling simply to pay their monthly bills and put food on the table.
“We are so proud of the water,” said Victoria, stating that their facial expressions showed how excited they were. She added, “My grandkids are jumping up and down.”