For many people, turning on the tap or flushing the toilet is something we take for granted. But a report released Monday, called “Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States,” shows that more than 2 million Americans live without these conveniences and that Native Americans are more likely to have trouble accessing water than any other group.
The nearest water station for Darlene Yazzie is 9 miles away at the Dennehotso Chapter House — a community center — in the Four Corners region of the Navajo Nation. On Tuesday, she counted her dimes and nickels to pay for water. It costs $1.10 plus gas money to fill up two 50-gallon barrels, and she has just been told the price is going up next month.
Yazzie lugged a T-shaped key as tall as her out to the well, where she dropped it down into the hole and turned the crank to open the valve.
Water gushed into the plastic barrel. A cool mist from a leak in the hose rained over her. This is Yazzie’s drinking water. For her animals, she usually drives to a windmill, but on this day it was empty and the sheep were thirsty.
“There’s no water in the windmill,” Yazzie said. “It’s dry because it’s not blowing. The only way they have water is if it’s blowing.”
Yazzie said the windmill water isn’t safe for humans anyway. Officials told her arsenic and uranium levels are too high. Yazzie and many others give the water to their animals, even though they plan to eat them.
Photo: Laurel Morales/KJZZ
Caption: Darlene Yazzie typically hauls water from a windmill 5 miles from her house for her sheep. Officials tell her it’s unsafe for humans but OK for livestock.