An effort to bring clean, running water to the Navajo Nation is underway in the Southwestern United States. Latter-day Saint Charities, the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is supporting the nonprofit organization DigDeep to bring water into homes that lack basic indoor plumbing in remote areas of the reservation in New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.
“We recognize that there are certain human conditions or basic needs that need to be met for an individual to grow and fulfill their divine purpose. Water is one of those basic needs,” said Julie Ramos, manager of the Clean Water Initiative for Latter-day Saint Charities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a temporary halt to installations inside homes, but outdoor storage tanks have been provided to some homes in the meantime to provide immediate assistance to the Navajo Nation.
“We haven’t done any home water installations for almost a year and that’s because we are not going into homes,” explained Emma Robbins, executive director of DigDeep’s Navajo Water Project.
After providing thousands of gallons of bottled water in communities across the Navajo Nation during the pandemic, Robbins reports that 275-gallon storage tanks that are temporarily being placed outside homes are being refilled by water trucks for families as needed. The permanent tanks hold 1,200 gallons of water.
“We are starting to implement what we’re calling ‘suitcase systems,’ and they’re called suitcase because all of the elements that would go indoors with a regular home water system are going into these compact boxes that go outside of the home,” she explained. “These will bring people running water to one sink, but it’s going to be placed inside when it is safe to go back into a home.”
Robbins believes it may be September before it is safe to go back into homes on the reservation.
DigDeep has been working with tribal leaders and agencies to identify high-risk residents who are eligible to receive the temporary outdoor water systems, including Navajo elders.
“It’s so important that we are taking care of our elders during this time,” said Robbins, who is Navajo. “As a keeper of our culture, of our language and our traditions, when we lose an elder, we lose libraries of culture and libraries of knowledge.”
Robbins said the pandemic has accelerated new relationships in the Navajo Nation. “That has been really great because we have built relationships with new communities.”
Much of the work on the reservation is done by DigDeep’s team, which consists of about 20 employees who are mostly Navajo.
“Our staff does everything. They are very skilled, and it is just amazing because another part of our project is making sure that we are giving people job skills,” said Robbins. Trained volunteers such as plumbers may be brought in as needed.
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