By RYAN HEINSIUS
Three congressional Democrats from Arizona are calling on federal officials to fully fund a major water system for the White Mountain Apache Tribe. The long-delayed project has kept many residents without safe and reliable drinking water. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.
A dam is proposed for the North Fork of the White River on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation to provide the tribe with much-needed drinking water.
In 2008, Congress approved $12 million to design the tribe’s Rural Water System and perform an environmental impact statement and other requirements. But the project still came up about $13 million short for infrastructure because of cost overruns and has gone unfinished.
Many residents and communities on the Fort Apache Reservation lack running water. Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema along with Congressman Tom O’Halleran are urging the U.S. Interior Department and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to allocate any possible funds available to finish the project.
They say a lack of running water increases a variety of health risks, including COVID-19. The 15,500-person White Mountain Apache Tribe had one of the highest infection rates in Arizona during last summer’s surge.