The COVID–19 Pandemic has Provided a Stark Reminder that Access to Clean Water is Critical to the Health and Well-being of Tribal Communities
Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and ten of his Senate colleagues introduced a resolution reaffirming the federal government’s responsibility to provide access to clean drinking water for Native American communities.
“It is unacceptable that many of our Tribal communities and Alaska Native villages do not have access to clean drinking water, especially during a public health crisis that has disproportionately harmed Native Americans,” said Bennet. “This resolution draws attention to that shameful reality and reasserts the federal government’s commitment to providing these communities with access to clean water.”
"The recognition in this resolution of the critical need for access to clean, reliable drinking water by all Native Americans is a huge step forward in the direction of a more racially just and equitable nation," said Daryl Vigil, co-facilitator of the Colorado River Water and Tribes Initiative and a member of the Jicarilla Apache Nation. "We are optimistic that the support of the Senate will propel meaningful solutions to the ongoing deficiency in safe and affordable drinking water for tribal communities."
"Alaska Natives and Native Americans are dying from COVID-19 at the highest rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States, and research shows there is a connection between lack of access to clean drinking water and COVID-19 infections in Indian Country," said Bidtah Becker, attorney for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and co-leader of an initiative on Universal Access to Clean Water. "Senate support of this resolution will significantly further the always developing relationship between federally recognized Native Nations and the United States."
The lack of access to clean drinking water is a significant barrier for many Native American communities. According to data from the Indian Health Service, nearly half of Native American households do not have access to reliable water sources and clean drinking water.
A report commissioned by the Colorado River Water and Tribes Initiative documents the different forms of lack of access to safe and reliable drinking water among tribes in the Colorado River Basin, together with some of the deficiencies in the federal programs designed to address this problem and recommendations for improvement. Lack of access to drinking water has significant impacts on health, education, economic development, and other aspects of daily life.
In addition to Bennet, other co-sponsors include U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).
The full text of the resolution is available HERE.