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Aerial view of Lake Powell in Utah

When Bidtah Becker, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, was growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, clean water flowed from the taps at her house. She and her siblings often visited her grandmother and other relatives on the Navajo reservation a few hours away. There, clean water was scarce — water had to be hauled by truck up to the reservation in large metal containers. “We always knew that every time we went we were going to get diarrhea,” Becker, now an associate attorney for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, told Grist. “We were just kids, we didn’t know why. But now that I’m an adult, I totally know why that is.” 

In 2021, access to running water and clean drinking water is a given for most Americans. The Census Bureau has even considered dropping a question on plumbing access from the U.S. census questionnaire. But many of the nation’s tribes still lack running water, access to clean water, and even flushing toilets. Native American households are 19 times more likely than white households to lack indoor plumbing, according to the U.S. Water Alliance, and more likely to lack piped water services than any other racial group. 

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