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It’s 2022, and 1 in 3 homes on the Navajo Nation Reservation still do not have a tap or toilet. In 2021, human rights nonprofit DigDeep collaborated with
Kohler to launch the Water Is Life microgrant program — which is working to make safe water a reality for all residents of the Navajo Nation.
Growing up on the Navajo Nation Reservation, Emma
Robbins — Executive Director of
DigDeep’s Navajo Water Project —
quickly learned to appreciate access to clean and potable water. Without an
indoor tap, her grandparents had to carefully ration their stored water for
bathing, cleaning and feeding their animals. Because of the lack of access to
clean water, one of the first phrases she learned was, “Can I have a pop?”
That’s what her grandmother would give her when she was thirsty. Robbins’ story
is a common experience shared among residents on the Navajo Nation, one of the
largest land areas retained by an Indigenous tribe in the US.
In the US, many are eagerly awaiting the pending approval of major legislation
that’s earmarked for the update and upgrading of critical infrastructure across
the country. While this is certainly welcomed news for anyone who has driven
across the country and seen the crumbling roads and bridges, the bill also
includes $11 billion in funds for Native American tribes for water, public
utilities and sanitation: basic
that one would assume would be in place in the most developed country in the
world — but they are not.
Over 2 million Americans live without running water and over 44 million don't
have access to safe drinking water. Native Americans are 9 times more
than white households to live without indoor running water. In addition to that,
this country is dealing with the intensifying effects of climate change, with
this past year being one of the
in Southwestern states since 1985.
The Navajo Nation faces some of the worst water challenges in the country: One
in three homes do not have a tap or
For communities such as the Navajo Nation, providing solutions to these water
challenges can be tricky and complex. Without piped water, the cost of
transporting water is almost 70
more expensive. These challenges present the need for long-term solutions driven
by the community.
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The Navajo Nation reaches from northeastern Arizona to northwestern New
Mexico and parts of southeastern Utah, and is facing some of the most
challenging issues of any community in the US. The population is shrinking,
household income is well below the national average and
disproportionately impacted its population. Nevertheless, there are many bright
spots, too. With many youth returning to the Nation to help family members deal
with the pandemic, they are staying connected through social media to support
each other, preserve their culture and raise awareness for the challenges facing
One bright spot pertains to community-led solutions spearheaded by the human
rights nonprofit DigDeep, which brings safe water to
many in the community who live without sinks, bathtubs, toilets and accessible,
potable water that the rest of us take for granted. In 2021, DigDeep
collaborated with Kohler to launch the Water
Is Life microgrant
— which so far has supported a pilot project that installed three in-home water
systems for regular water deliveries for a year in Navajo-Hopi Partition
Land — a water delivery route that will bring water to 60 families in local
Arizona communities and a number of additional projects designed to make safe
water a reality for all residents of the Navajo Nation.
“Lack of access to safe water and sanitation is a whole-world issue, with
millions of people struggling to access this basic human right every day,” says
Kohler Director of Stewardship Cindy
Howley. “But it doesn’t have to be
Government investment is essential to making a step change in making progress,
but partnerships between companies and communities is a critical element to
building long-term solutions — because the community not only intimately
understands their needs, they also know how to solve them. They just need
guidance and resources.
Learn more about Kohler’s work with DigDeep’s Navajo Water Project and the company’s approach to innovation from the community for the community here.
Published Jan 21, 2022 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.