On Wednesday, April 21, the Arizona Institutes for Resilience, in partnership with the WRRC and the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, hosted the second episode of the "Water Solutions for Our Warmer World" webinar series. This session, “Water and COVID-19 in Indian Country,” featured a panel of Indigenous leaders and experts to discuss shared issues and concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on Native Nations.
Karletta Chief, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist at UArizona, highlighted the work of Indigenous scholars and researchers in mapping COVID-19 infections on Native Nations and its correlation with the lack of indoor plumbing in infected households. Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood of the White Mountain Apache Tribe described the reality of declining water quality in Indian Country, and commented, “It has taken a national pandemic to expose the drinking water crisis in Indian country, but we will keep fighting to secure a clean and reliable water supply for our members.” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez pointed out the fact that specialized medical care is underfunded on the reservation. On a positive note, President Nez noted the success of the Navajo vaccination effort, stating that more than half of the Navajo people have been fully vaccinated. Otakuye Conroy-Ben, Assistant Professor at Arizona State University's School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, shared her work examining COVID-19 in wastewater from Indigenous communities. Beatrice Norton, Board Chair of the Oraibi, AZ Hopi village, reported about the help she received from the CARES Act and the Indian Health Services to fund water tanks and trailers to transport water to houses. Crystal Tulley-Cordova, Principal Hydrologist of the Water Management Branch at the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources, emphasized the need for water infrastructure capital development and financial support for system maintenance.
Episode 3 of the webinar series, “The Realities of Adaptation in the Water Sector,” will be held Wednesday, May 19, from 4:00-5:30 pm MST.
Photo: Nikki Tulley (WRRC 2020 Photo Contest Winner)