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October 3, 2022
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The Dirt: Coming Together for Water Access in the COVID Crisis

In the spring of 2020, while most of the country was staying home and following the advice of the CDC to wash hands often, socially distance, and avoid unnecessary trips from home, the Navajo Nation was disproportionately being impacted by COVID-19. For a period, the Navajo Nation had the highest per capita case rate in the United States.

As the University of Arizona sought to assist the Navajo Nation, a connection made by Dr. Karletta Chief (Diné) enabled the university to join the Navajo Nation Water Access Group (WACG). The 2022 Foundation Review article co-authored by Arizona Institute for Resilient Environments and Societies staff, Respectful Tribal Partnership: What Philanthropy Can Learn From the Navajo Nation's Collaborative Response to the COVID-19 Crisis is the story of that collaboration.

The authors describe how the WACG coalition of public and private organizations, academic, and philanthropic partners addressed the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact on the roughly 35% of Navajo families that do not have piped water to their homes. These families must haul water miles for basic needs and congregate at limited water sources.

“Twice a week in the spring of 2020, we were transported to the Navajo Nation on those calls. Being part of this work gave me hope during those trying times,” said Nancy Petersen, Assistant Director for the Haury Program for Environment and Social Justice, and a co-author of the article.

The WACG successfully built 59 transitional water sites to bring water sources closer to families under the extreme challenges of lockdowns from COVID-19. This was possible due to the Navajo Nation’s leadership and partners engaged in respectful planning with Navajo governance, traditional knowledge, and tribal sovereignty.

Key lessons from the partnership include that partners must seek meaningful tribal consultation, members of the tribal community should steer the project, and multiple disciplines, agencies, experts, and funding partners that honor tribal sovereignty should be included. Said Peterson, “we believe these lessons can be applied by all researchers and others seeking to serve Native Nations.”

Upcoming Events

Mark your calendars, and don't forget to register!

October 3

Environmental Science Colloquium
Hear from experts around the world! This week we'll hear about Indigenous nature-based climate solutions on agricultural lands. More info>>

3:00–4:00PM     Marley 230
Find More Events

Environment in the News

A new UArizona initiative will use culinary medicine to help prevent and manage chronic diseases. (Steven Meckler)

New UArizona initiative to help communities harness the power of food as medicine

By Rosemary Brandt | College of Agriculture and Life Sciences | September 28, 2022
A new UArizona initiative will work to reduce diet-sensitive disease in vulnerable Arizona communities through culinary medicine — an emerging field that blends the art of cooking with the science of medicine and nutrition to prevent and manage chronic illness. Read more>>

More Stories

What is ‘dead pool’ and what does it mean for Colorado River?

Buffelgrass battleground northwest of Tucson wins national recognition

‘It’s getting close’: As megadrought grinds on, Arizona working to meet water demands

‘You’re living in a tin can’: Arizona’s mobile-home residents are far more likely to die from excessive heat.
Biosphere drought reveals scent of troubled ecosystem

Methane Might Be a Bigger Climate Problem Than Thought, Study Finds

Interdisciplinary team investigates air and water quality on Cocopah Reservation

Legislators consider desalination as solution to Arizona water shortage
Find More News


Register for Research Insights in Semi-arid Ecosystems

The 18th annual Research Insights in Semiarid Ecosystems (RISE) Symposium will be held Saturday, 05 November 2022, 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM on the University of Arizona campus. The Symposium will feature invited speakers presenting recent or on-going research and a student poster competition with monetary awards. More info and registration.

Southwest Adaptation Forum Accepting Applications

The Southwest Adaptation Forum (SWAF) is a gathering of climate adaptation leaders, researchers, and practitioners across the Southwest U.S. to exchange best practices around efforts that are advancing climate adaptation and resilience in the region. Attendees can learn about the work of others as well as sharing their own work through presentations, workshops, discussions, and networking opportunities. Join us for SWAF 2022 in Albuquerque, New Mexico October 10-12 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center! Learn more and apply.

Paid Internships for Students

The AIRES Resilience Internships and Student Experiences (RISE) Program has paid internship opportunities for students! Visit the RISE website to view the opportunities starting in Spring 2023.

Have an announcement to share?

Submit your announcement or event to be featured in The Dirt!
Did you know...?
Great Mullein may be a good plant for our lungs! It can help clear the lungs of mucus and reduce inflammation. Read more>>

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Land Acknowledgement
We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples. Today, Arizona is home to 22 federally recognized tribes, with Tucson being home to the O’odham and the Yaqui. Committed to diversity and inclusion, the University strives to build sustainable relationships with sovereign Native Nations and Indigenous communities through education offerings, partnerships, and community service.  
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