The Navajo Nation estimates that up to 30% of the population (approximately 54,000 people) do not have piped water to their homes. These residents haul water either from safe watering points or from unregulated sources, such as livestock wells and springs. The number of unregulated water sources is estimated to be in the low thousands.
NNEPA policy prohibits the use of unregulated sources for human consumption because these sources are not routinely tested and regulated in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. These unregulated sources are susceptible to bacterial contamination, including fecal coliforms. Some of these unregulated water sources exceed drinking water standards for uranium and other chemicals. Nevertheless, human consumption of unregulated water is reportedly widespread due to a lack of public water systems in the more remote and sparsely populated regions of the Navajo Nation. The use of unregulated water sources is the greatest public health risk associated with drinking water for the Navajo Nation.
Uranium contamination is widespread on Navajo. There are many reports done on Navajo. Lots of reports, but very little action.
Here is one of many, many stories of water crisis on Navajo.
On the Navajo Nation, children with the most severe developmental disabilities attend a school called Saint Michael’s Association for Special Education.
Dameon David, 8, is waking up from a nap in his classroom. He has come to the school in northeastern Arizona for four years. He has cerebral palsy, seizures and scoliosis. His mom, Felencia Woodie, picks him up from a bed with Superman sheets.
“Other schools that he was going to go to, they didn’t have the nursing staff or the equipment he goes in, or the trained staff that they have here to do his suctioning, his feeding and his medications daily,” she says.
Woodie, who also works at Saint Michael’s, says the only problem with the school is its water.
“It has a certain stench to it. Sometimes you’ll smell … kinda like a egg smell,” Woodie says. “Sometimes it’s yellow, brown, or even we’ve seen black.”
Many of the kids at Saint Michael’s are medically fragile. So they have equipment that needs to be cleaned daily.
The staff refuses to use the tap water to wash equipment. Instead, they use 5-gallon jugs of filtered water trucked in from many miles away.
More than one-third of the Navajo Nation — which is the size of West Virginia — doesn’t have running water. And at some of the places that do, like Saint Michael’s, people don’t want to drink it because it smells, tastes funny and looks bad.