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Tanana Authors Report Examining Clean Water Deficits Among Tribes


University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law Assistant Professor Heather Tanana was the lead author on a comprehensive analysis recently released by the Colorado River Water & Tribes Initiative that examines the underlying causes of the lack of access to clean drinking water affecting 30 tribes in the Colorado River Basin.

The report finds four main factors exacerbate gaps in tribal drinking water access, and in turn hurt public health and economic growth:

  • Lack of piped water services
  • Inadequate water quality
  • Deteriorating or inadequate water infrastructure.
  • Structural challenges in supporting the operation and maintenance requirements of existing water systems.

The report also outlines specific recommendations for how the federal government can approach addressing lack of access to clean water for tribal communities, including removing unnecessary or conflicting requirements and pooling resources and expertise to get the job done.

“We know that tribal communities lack clean drinking water, and now as we rebuild from the pandemic, there’s an opportunity to make real progress,” Tanana said. “No family should have to choose between washing their hands, cooking their food with clean water, or brushing their teeth in the morning. We can do better.”

The Water & Tribes Initiative advocates on behalf of the 30 federally recognized tribes in the Colorado River Basin to improve access to clean water.

The full report can be viewed here.