‘Long overdue’: Lawmakers propose $6.7 billion to bring clean drinking water to Indian Country

Two Democratic senators have introduced legislation that would dramatically scale up funding to build new water infrastructure in Indian Country, seeking to address a backlog of needed projects and finally bring clean drinking water to communities that have been living with scarcity and toxic contamination for generations.

The bill , introduced by Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, would provide about $6.7 billion for a variety of water infrastructure projects, the largest amount of additional funding to date to address the longstanding injustice of the lack of clean drinking water in many Indigenous communities across the country.

In a recent report , researchers with U.S. Water Alliance and DigDeep found that race is the “strongest predictor” of water access and that Native American households are 19 times more likely than white households to lack complete plumbing.

“This is long overdue,” Hopi Tribe Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma said in an interview. “We are First Nations here, yet we’re the last nations to be really recognized. So it’s just an imbalance in equity.”

Many people in Hopi communities have tap water contaminated with toxic arsenic. Some live in homes without running water and must drive to communal wells to fill tanks for bathing and cooking.

The situation is also dire in the Navajo Nation. A report by the House Natural Resources Committee in 2016 cited estimates that 30-40% of people living in the Navajos’ 27,000-square-mile reservation have no access to running water. Many tribal members use tanks mounted on pickup trucks to […]

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