NAVAJO NATION (KRQE) – A massive drinking water project years in the making is getting more attention by New Mexico’s lawmakers in Washington D.C. The project already has over $100 million in funding, but lawmakers say it’s not enough.
“Amending current law is vital to ensure the Navajo Nation, city of Gallup, and Jicarilla Apache Nation in New Mexico have access to safe, clean, and reliable water,” U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) said in a press release. “On the Navajo Nation, approximately 15,500 households live without running water or haul drinking water to their homes. The Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project will provide a reliable and more sustainable surface water supply to help improve public health and economic opportunities for the region.”
A vast amount of money has already been put towards bringing water to the region. Earlier this year, a $67 million contract was issued to build pipelines. But now, lawmakers say the project needs more time and more cash to create the envisioned system. And lawmakers want to establish a maintenance fund to ensure that even after the work is complete, the Navajo Nation and the Jicarilla Apache Nation can keep the system running.
To do that, Luján, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.), and Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) are introducing two pieces of legislation. Ultimately, the hope is to get water to a quarter of a million people by 2040 or sooner.
While more money likely can’t hurt, the project has encountered obstacles that money alone can’t fix. For example, in 2022, a dispute over the ownership of land rights presented a hiccup to the project.