Earlier this week, the Colorado River Water & Tribes Initiative (WTI) released a first of its kind, comprehensive analysis examining the underlying causes of the lack of access to clean drinking water affecting 30 tribes in the Colorado River Basin. The Family Farm Alliance has issued a formal statement supporting the important work started by the WTI to bring attention to the lack of access to clean drinking water in Indian country.
“The initiative was launched to both educate the public about the lack of this basic service that most Americans take for granted and make real, tangible progress on the ground,” said Family Farm Alliance President Patrick O’Toole, a sheep and cattle rancher from Wyoming. “While the Alliance is not advocating for any particular interest or outcome associated with the Initiative, we strongly support its intent to enhance the capacity of tribes and to advance sustainable water management through collaborative decision-making.”
The WTI report finds four main factors exacerbate gaps in tribal drinking water access, and in turn hurt public health and economic growth:
● Lack of piped water services—Native American households are more likely to lack piped water services than any other racial group. Navajo residents are 67 times more likely than other Americans to live without access to running water.
● Inadequate water quality—poor quality is pervasive in Indian Country. The Hopi Tribe, which has struggled with arsenic contamination since the 1960s, estimates that approximately 75 percent of people living on Hopi land are drinking contaminated water.
● Deteriorating or inadequate water infrastructure—infrastructure investments haven’t kept up with need, resulting in interruptions in service and potential contamination of supplies.
● Many tribes, such as the Jicarilla Apache Nation, continue to face structural challenges in supporting the operation and maintenance requirements of existing water systems.
The report also outlines specific recommendations for how the federal government can approach addressing lack of access to clean water for tribal communities, including removing unnecessary or conflicting requirements and pooling resources and expertise to get the job done.
The Family Farm Alliance (Alliance) Board of Directors at its April 9, 2021 joint meeting with the Alliance Advisory Committee, took formal action in support of the provision of reliable, clean drinking water to meet the domestic needs of Western Native American communities.
The Family Farm Alliance represents farmers, ranchers, irrigation and water districts, and allied industries in the 17 Western States.
Alliance President O’Toole issued a statement on behalf of the Board of Directors in support of the Colorado River Water and Tribes Initiative.
“On February 8, 2021, our Board of Directors finalized priorities for the coming year. One of those priorities was seeking to work with Western Native Americans to find solutions that lead to ‘win-win’ successes for irrigated agriculture and the rural farming, ranching and tribal communities in the West,” said Mr. O’Toole. “Our Board believes that working with Native Americans, particularly in agricultural areas, will undoubtedly contribute to economic recovery in those areas.”