The United States celebrated a bleak victory this month: For the first time in 20 years, none of the lower 48 states are experiencing extreme drought conditions, according to June's U.S. Drought Monitor map. Many areas of the country have experienced record levels rain and snow this year; California is officially drought-free.
But in the Navajo Nation, which covers parts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, thousands of people are still struggling to get clean drinking water: More than 40 percent of Navajo households don't have running water at home, forcing residents to travel as far as 50 miles to stock up at water pumps every week, NASA's Western Water Applications Office reports. According to the non-profit Navajo Water Project, Navajo families are 67 times more likely than other Americans to go without running water or indoor plumbing, and they also pay more for the clean water they pump than they would for piped water.
The Nation's members face some of the last lingering drought levels in the Southwest, where aquifers and lakes have shriveled into cracked, dry fields. The crisis has intensified with climate change, creating moderate drought conditions, and leading the Navajo Nation's Commission on Emergency Management to issue an emergency drought declaration last year. Rising temperatures and dwindling resources have made it almost impossible to continue traditional farming practices that rely on rainfall, Public Radio International reports.
There could be some relief coming: Conditions have improved in the region since the Nation hit extreme drought levels last fall. In the meantime, human-rights non-profits have been working to deliver water and install water tanks for Navajo families in need. Below, scenes show some of this work in New Mexico.
More From Pacific Standard on Extreme Weather
- 'The Fields Are Washing Away:' Midwest Flooding is Wreaking Havoc on Farmers
- The Wettest Part of Alaska Is Experiencing Extreme Drought. Is Climate Change to Blame?
- What's Causing the Wild Weather in the Midwest?
- Is Climate Change Creating More Tornadoes?
- Washington State Faces a Drought Emergency While Much of the U.S. Is Having a Wet Spring. Is This Normal?