Thursday, September 24, 2009


by John Aldrich

It has been said that water is the life blood of the West. Given this analogy, the arid high desert of the Southwest's Four Corners region, the location of the Navajo Reservation, is in dire need of a transfusion. This has been a particularly devastating summer for Navajo water sources, and wells in some areas such as Teesto and Bird Springs have completely dried up forcing people to haul water even further than normal.

Traditionally the Navajo have lived in dispersed clusters centered around family and clan connections. This rural type of living means that many of these people do not have running water at their homesites and must haul their water from central distribution points, often located at chapter houses which could be many miles away.

During the recent food runs to Oljato and Navajo Mountain I tried to obtain pictures of some of these water sources to illustrate the challenges Navajo face in meeting the need for the most basic commodity of life.

Shown here is the water source for the Oljato area, located not far from Gouldings. People may travel for many miles to fill their containers at this site before returning home. You can guess from the size of the hose that it would take considerable time to fill a container the size of the one shown.

Judge for yourself how long it might take before the person at the end of the line can actually start loading water.

The Navajo Mountain area is a particular case in point for water difficulties. Dependent on a single spring which periodically is disrupted, the residents of this community were without water for weeks last winter during a severe storm. During that time water trucks were unable to drive the remote road to the area to bring water.

The water source shown above is located behind the Navajo Mountain Chapter House. Note the plug in the end of the pipe.

This water source for stock is located just south of Navajo Mountain and is completely dry.

Another source of water for livestock further south is also dry.

Although wells and tanks may be empty and dry they still can provide a canvas for local artists to express their feelings such as this patriotic message near Inscription House.

A pipeline is being constructed to provide a more reliable source of water to Navajo Mountain, but it may be some time before it is completed.