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Articles by Indigenous Affairs Fellow Mark Armao

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A member of the Navajo Nation fills bottles of water at a public tap in Thoreau, New Mexico.

Hoping to step up the federal government’s response to long-standing water issues facing Native American communities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released an “action plan” earlier this month that will seek solutions to the many barriers tribes have to running water and wastewater services.

The plan will guide the EPA Office of Water as it works with federally recognized tribes to implement the plan, which was prepared with input from the National Tribal Water Council, an EPA-funded advisory group. Priorities include the creation of federal baseline water-quality standards under the Clean Water Act.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S. Water Alliance, Native American households are 19 times more likely than white households to lack indoor plumbing. The lack of a clean, reliable water source can make handwashing and hygiene difficult for Native households—inequities that were further exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The infrastructure for safe drinking water and basic sanitation needs are core concerns for any tribal nation,” said NTWC chairman Ken Norton, who is a member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, who... Read more

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