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water access

  • A grassroots community group on the Navajo Nation is making winter supply runs to deliver water and food to elders in the Black Mesa region of northern Arizona. Diné Land and Water is a Navajo-led organization based out of Sanders. Mercury Bitsuie, a project manager for the group, hauls water, wood and food to elders and families who live in a highly remote area in Black Mesa’s Big Mountain community. Big Mountain is just north of the Hopi Nation and is located on land that has historically been the subject of disputes between the Hopi and Navajo tribes. Many Navajo families who live there don’t have access to clean water or electricity according to Bitsuie, and roads in the area can frequently become impassable due to snow. Bitsuie says his group is actively raising funds on GoFundMe for winter supply runs. And Colorado workers can now start signing up online for more paid time-off through the state.
  • A new store that sells potable water has opened up in Shiprock, New Mexico, on the Navajo Nation. About a third of the roughly 170,000 people who live on the Navajo Nation do not have access to clean, reliable drinking water, according to the tribe’s Department of Water Resources. Many Navajo citizens regularly have to drive for miles to haul water back to their communities. Elijah Bitah is a co-founder of Tó Water Company, which celebrated its grand opening in Shiprock on Saturday. Bitah says that he and his family were inspired to start Tó, a Navajo word that means water, after visiting a similar drinking water business in Gallup. They also saw a need for residents of Shiprock to have access to clean water after the Gold King Mine Spill in 2015, which caused wastewater containing heavy metals like arsenic and lead to flow into the Animas and San Juan rivers.
  • Environmental groups that work to protect the Black Mesa region in northeast Arizona say that Peabody Energy has not done a sufficient job of reclaiming the now-defunct Kayenta coal mine, and shouldn’t be refunded millions of dollars in bond money. Recently, the coal company Peabody Energy applied for the release of $17.3 million, part of a larger bond held by the Office of Surface Mining, or the OSM, for parts of the Kayenta Mine that have undergone some phases of reclamation. The office is under the Department of the Interior, and is tasked with ensuring coal mines adequately restore land damaged during strip mining. The bonds were posted with the OSM by Peabody to be returned only after the mine lands had been reclaimed to certain standards. In late August, the OSM held a public meeting on the bond release at the Navajo chapter house in Forest Lake where some community members also raised concerns about the long-term impact of mining on local water resources.
  • Last week, the Upper Colorado River Commission held a virtual meeting on developments concerning a controversial government program designed to pay water users to curb their use. The System Conservation Pilot Program, or SCPP, is intended to help boost flagging water levels in Lake Powell. Some farmers and irrigators in southwest Colorado – and in other Upper Basin states like New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming – had reservations about applying, concerned about deliberately not farming their land in order to save water. Chuck Cullom, the executive director of the commission, says the process leading up to this iteration of the SCPP was rushed, something he says the commission takes responsibility for. And a set of bills that would expand treatment for people with eating disorders passed the state Senate Tuesday.
  • The System Conservation Pilot Program was recently rebooted with $125 million in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to fight shrinking water levels in Lake Powell.
  • With water supply is dwindling in the West, Utah is Utah trying to figure out who can divert water from streams and rivers — and when they can do it. But there isn’t a consistent statewide distribution system in place, and without it, celebrated changes to water law fall flat.
  • The US House of Representatives passed legislation that may help provide Arizona with more water. And the Colorado Department of Natural Resources recently awarded a one million dollar grant to the Ute Mountain Ute tribe and three local conservation groups.
  • Water supply is regularly interrupted for residents in a Gunnison mobile home park. After years of bringing attention to the issue, they still haven’t seen solutions. At the same time, several members of the community have been working on a state-wide plan to bring more attention to water equity issues.
  • In the Upper Gunnison River Basin, the majority of water that melts from mountains is used for agriculture. Fields are irrigated for pasture and hay to feed cattle on nearly 100 ranches in the region. A centuries-old system determines who gets their water first and who gets it last.
  • Thousands of Coloradans are getting ready to flock to the mountains for the long Memorial Day Weekend, and meteorologists say travelers should be vigilant about increased fire danger. And leaders from the Navajo Nation, the federal government and the state of Utah signed a water rights agreement on Friday.