Quantcast

2 Million Americans Lack Clean Water Access, Especially Native Americans

Health + Wellness
The Navajo Nation has suffered from limited freshwater resources as a result of climate, insufficient infrastructure, and contamination. They collaborated with NASA to develop the Drought Severity Evaluation Tool. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Native Americans are disproportionately without access to clean water, according to a new report, "Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States: A National Action Plan," to be released this afternoon, which shows that more than two million Americans do not have access to running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater services.


The report is the result of a collaboration from two national non-profit groups, DigDeep and the US Water Alliance. It found that 58 out of every 1,000 Native American households lack plumbing, compared with three out of every 1,000 white people.

The report noted that an estimated 30 percent of people on the Navajo Nation lack access to running water and must haul water, but local officials report that the actual number may be even higher.

"We knew the problem was much bigger, but when we went out to look at the data, it didn't exist," said George McGraw, the founder of DigDeep, a nonprofit that has helped build water systems on the Navajo Nation, as NPR reported.

The paper found that many people in the Navajo Nation around Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico had to drive more than 40 miles every few days just to haul home water for drinking, cooking and bathing. That's some of the better access.

Some Navajo residents drive four or five hours just to fill metal barrels. One study participant spends over $200 month in gas just to fetch water. In Red Mesa, Arizona, residents told researchers that the groundwater supplies are so low in some areas that they have to visit four or five locations to collect the water they need. Female elders reported stockpiling water for emergencies and for the winter, when freezing temperatures make hauling water difficult, according to the report.

The paper noted that many study participants in the Navajo Nation in the Southwest have under 10 gallons of water at home at any given time. Many use as little as two or three gallons per day, which stands in stark contrast to the 88 gallons per day used by the average American, according to the report. That minimal water use means people in the Navajo nation have to make difficult choices between hygiene and water needed for food.

"It's hard to imagine that in America today, people are living without basics like safe and reliable water service," said Radhika Fox, CEO, US Water Alliance in a press release.

NPR profiled Darlene Yazzie, an elderly woman who is a member of the Navajo nation. She needs to fill two 50-gallon barrels with water and then drive to a windmill to fetch water for her sheep. The water from the windmill is not fit for human consumption since it has unhealthy levels of arsenic and uranium.

"A lot of people died of cancer around here," Yazzie said to NPR. "I noticed that more are being diagnosed. I'm pretty sure it's because of the environment and the water."

The new report and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have both confirmed her hunch. The ground water in the Four Corners area is contaminated by 521 abandoned uranium mines. When uranium mining was at its peak in the 1990s, gastric cancer rates in the area doubled, according to the new paper, as NPR reported. The EPA says that unregulated drinking water sources are the greatest public health risk to the Navajo Nation, according to NPR.

The report noted that Navajo tribe members are two to four times more likely to have type 2 diabetes than white people. One of the reasons is that sugar-heavy drinks are more readily available than clean water.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A harbour seal on an ice floe in Glacier Bay, Alaska. A new study shows that the climate crisis has warmed waters, changing ecosystems and crippling sea ice growth. Janette Hill / robertharding / Getty Images Plus

The climate crisis is accelerating the rate of change in Alaska's marine ecosystem far faster than scientists had previously thought, causing possibly irreversible changes, according to new research, as Newsweek reported.

Read More
Doctors report that only 1 in 4 children are getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Ronnie Kaufman / DigitalVision / Getty Images

By Dan Gray

Pediatricians are being urged to start writing "exercise prescriptions" for the children they see in their office.

Read More
Sponsored
A First Nations protester walks in front of a train blockade in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ontario, Canada on Feb. 21, 2020. LARS HAGBERG / AFP via Getty Images

An indigenous rail blockade that snarled train travel in Canada for more than two weeks came to an end Monday when police moved in to clear protesters acting in solidarity with another indigenous community in British Columbia (B.C.), which is fighting to keep a natural gas pipeline off its land.

Read More
A rainbow snake, a rare reptile spotted in a Florida county for the first time in more than 50 years, seen here on July 5, 2013. Kevin Enge / FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute / Flickr

A Florida hiker recently stumbled across a slithering surprise — a rare snake that hadn't been spotted in the area for more than 50 years.

Read More
We need our government to do everything it can to stop PFAS contamination and exposure from wreaking havoc in communities across the country. LuAnn Hun / Unsplash

By Genna Reed

The EPA announced last week that it is issuing a preliminary regulatory determination for public comment to set an enforceable drinking water standard to two of the most common and well-studied PFAS, PFOA and PFOS.

This decision is based on three criteria:

  1. PFOA and PFOS have an adverse effect on public health
  2. PFOA and PFOS occur in drinking water often enough and at levels of public health concern;
  3. regulation of PFOA and PFOS is a meaningful opportunity for reducing the health risk to those served by public water systems.
Read More