A family is standing next to their water source showcasing one of the water scarcity solutions Running Strong is providing.

Water Scarcity Solutions Flourish on Pine Ridge Reservation

In the heart of the expansive Pine Ridge Reservation, a community once burdened by the heavy weight of water scarcity is now experiencing a remarkable transformation, brimming with hope and promise. While challenges persist, there’s a newfound sense of optimism, all thanks to the water scarcity solutions and tireless efforts of organizations like Running Strong for American Indian Youth® and their clean water program.

The Harsh Reality of Water Scarcity

For years, the lack of access to clean water cast a shadow over daily life, robbing families of essential resources and undermining their health and well-being. But today, that narrative is shifting, replaced by stories of resilience and triumph. Through collaborative efforts and unwavering determination, Running Strong has brought about tangible improvements, turning once-dire circumstances into beacons of hope.

A Ripple of Change: Running Strong Steps In

Recognizing the critical need for clean water, Running Strong initiated a clean water program specifically designed to address water scarcity on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Through this program, Running Strong has worked tirelessly to drill wells, install water pipes, and provide essential water purification systems to families and communities in dire need.

This approach evolved significantly with the creation of the Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System, which laid the groundwork for a more sustainable solution through water lines. Despite these advancements, for many on Pine Ridge, potable water remained a dream. Costs associated with connecting homes to the main service lines were prohibitively high, leaving nearly 500 households in a state of limbo—yearning for a basic necessity just beyond their reach.

Clean water isn’t just about hydration—it’s about nurturing the soul of a community. It’s about empowering families to dream bigger, reach higher, and embrace a future filled with possibility. With access to safe, reliable water, children can flourish, elders can thrive, and communities can grow stronger together.

The Impact of Access to Clean Water

Running Strong embarked on a mission with the Mni Wiconi program, aiming to do what once seemed insurmountable—provide running water to homes directly connected to the Rural Water Supply line. Since the pilot program’s launch in FY16, the initiative has seen remarkable progress:

  • 603 projects have successfully brought running water to homes in need.
  • 783 in-home hookups have been installed for residences with indoor plumbing and septic systems.
  • 154 outdoor hydrants now serve homes without indoor plumbing, offering a vital water source.
  • 155 total Mni Wiconi projects have been completed, transforming lives.
  • 1,119 individuals have directly benefited from the Mni Wiconi projects since FY16, with a total of 309 people impacted by all water projects since FY07.

The availability of clean water has brought about a monumental shift in the lives of the Pine Ridge residents. Health conditions have significantly improved due to a decrease in waterborne diseases. Families now enjoy the basic comfort of drinking clean water, cooking with it, and maintaining personal hygiene without the fear of illness.

Stories of Transformation

Dawn’s Journey to Clean Water with Running Strong

In the winter of 2023, Dawn F. and her family of five from Pine Ridge experienced a significant change in their lives thanks to Running Strong’s clean water program. Previously, Dawn had faced the daunting task of hauling water from a source 20 miles away, only to find it contaminated with heavy metals like uranium, making it unsafe for drinking. They relied on this water for washing and showering while purchasing bottled water for drinking.

After years of effort and waiting, Running Strong’s intervention in December 2023 finally provided her family with access to clean, potable water. Expressing her relief and gratitude, Dawn said, “I am very grateful for the water connection and appreciate what Running Strong does for the Pine Ridge Reservation.” This sentiment echoes the profound impact and hope that Running Strong’s initiatives bring to families across the reservation.

A Fresh Start with Safe, Running Water

Tedine P. from Porcupine and her family of seven faced years without proper water access after their well pump failed. Relying on a malfunctioning rural hydrant, their struggles with water supply were significant. Running Strong stepped in to install a new hydrant and water line for her home, reconnecting them to the vital resource.

Expressing her gratitude, Tedine remarked, “I would like to thank the Running Strong program, who recently got my home hooked up to the Rural Water System in our community. It’s a blessing not to worry about frozen hose and water to our house. My family and grandchildren are so thankful to have this blessing before Christmas.”

This story highlights the pivotal role of Running Strong for American Indian Youth® in nearing its goal of providing every family on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with clean, safe running water.


An innovative approach, spearheaded by Oglala Lakota contractor Sam O’Rourke and his team, introduced the use of a “Road Bore Machine.” This technology allows for boring under highways, making water access possible for homes previously deemed unreachable—a testament to Running Strong’s relentless pursuit of solutions.

Join the Movement

The success story of Pine Ridge is a testament to the power of collective action and the difference we can make when we come together for a cause. However, the fight against water scarcity is far from over. Your support can help extend the reach of programs like Running Strong’s, ensuring that more families have access to the clean water they desperately need.

We urge you to consider making a donation today and to sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on our progress and the lives you are helping to change. Together, we can continue to bring clean water to those in need and create a healthier, brighter future for all.

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