April 15, 2021

Congressman Joe Neguse Introduces Resolution Reaffirming the Importance of Tribal Access to Clean Water

Washington, D.C. — Today, Congressman Joe Neguse, Chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands introduced a resolution reaffirming the federal government’s responsibility to provide access to clean drinking water for Native American communities. 

“Access to reliable, clean drinking water is an essential human need, tied to public health and the well-being of every community,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “In the midst of a pandemic that has disproportionately harmed Native Americans it is crucial that the Federal government is ensuring Tribal communities and Alaska Native villages have access to this basic resource. Our resolution reaffirms that a whole-of-government approach, and collaboration with Tribal governments, is warranted to ensure clean drinking water is attainable for our Native American communities.”

“The recognition in this resolution of the critical need for access to clean, reliable drinking water by all Native Americans is a huge step forward in the direction of a more racially just and equitable nation,” said Daryl Vigil, co-facilitator of the Colorado River Water and Tribes Initiative and a member of the Jicarilla Apache Nation. “We are optimistic that the support of Congress will propel meaningful solutions to the ongoing deficiency in safe and affordable drinking water for tribal communities.”

“Alaska Natives and Native Americans are dying from COVID-19 at the highest rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States, and research shows there is a connection between lack of access to clean drinking water and COVID-19 infections in Indian Country,” said Bidtah Becker, attorney for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and co-leader of an initiative on Universal Access to Clean Water. “Congressional support of this resolution will significantly further the always developing relationship between federally recognized Native Nations and the United States."

Read the resolution here. 

The lack of access to clean drinking water is a significant barrier for many Native American communities. According to data from the Indian Health Service, nearly half of Native American households do not have access to reliable water sources and clean drinking water.  

A report commissioned by the Colorado River Water and Tribes Initiative documents the different forms of lack of access to safe and reliable drinking water among tribes in the Colorado River Basin, together with some of the deficiencies in the federal programs designed to address this problem and recommendations for improvement.  Lack of access to drinking water has significant impacts on health, education, economic development, and other aspects of daily life. 

The resolution is cosponsored by Representatives Jared Huffman, Nanette Barragán and Grace Napolitano. Senator Michael Bennet is leading a companion resolution in the Senate.