eNews October 2020

Water Conference Session on October 27 to Explore the Nexus of COVID-19 and Water Access for Navajo Nation

By Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority reported that 30 percent of Navajo Nation homes lack access to piped water service. In many cases, occupants of these homes rely on hauled water as their primary source for water. Prior to strict isolation and contact tracing measures, COVID-19 has spread much faster among residents of the Navajo Nation than among residents of the surrounding states of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.

As part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed earlier this year, $5 million was appropriated by Indian Health Service (IHS) to support the Navajo Nation Water Access Mission, which includes the installation of up to 59 transitional water points, supplying up to 37,000 water storage containers, and providing up to 3.5 million doses of water disinfection tablets for residents living in homes with no running water access for the duration of the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.

Join us on Tuesday October 27, the first day of the general session of the 65th Annual New Mexico Water Conference, for a panel devoted to exploring the work of this mission and the longstanding challenges of water access in the Navajo Nation. This session entitled, Spotlight on Navajo Nation and the Nexus of Coronavirus and Water, will be moderated by Crystal Tulley-Cordova, Principal Hydrologist for the Water Management Branch of the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources. Presenters will include:

  • Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, who played an important role in securing the CARES Act funding for water access
  • To’Hajiilee Chapter President Mark Begay, whose community has faced water infrastructure challenges since before the pandemic
  • Captain David Harvey of the Indian Health Service, who has been coordinating Water Access Coordination Group activities

Following the panel discussion, there will be four breakout options allowing conference attendees to brainstorm and discuss opportunities for tribal communities across New Mexico to build water resource capacity. These breakout sessions will focus on the areas of university research benefits, tribal communities, government agencies, and non-profits. These breakout session discussions will serve as the basis for a follow up workshop in November.

Take advantage of our free registration for the duration of this year’s annual conference and join us for this and many other informative sessions taking place throughout October 26-29, 2020.