The local non-profit Water With Blessings announced a new partnership June 10 with members of the Navajo Nation to help alleviate contamination that can occur in hauled and stored water the community relies upon in the southwestern United States.
Water With Blessings (WWB), co-founded 10 years ago by Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph Larraine Lauter, donates Sawyer PointONE water filters and provides training to communities that lack access to clean water in 48 countries.
Sister Lauter, who serves as WWB’s executive director, spent some time on the Navajo reservation recently.
“People are eager and interested in receiving the filters,” she said in a recent interview. “Water is a real concern and a daily source of worry.”
The vast reservation, which spans about 27,000 miles across Utah, Arizona and New Mexico is experiencing a 20-year drought that is worsening, said Sister Lauter. The reservation comprises about 47,000 households — approximately 172,000 individuals. Forty percent of homes lack clean water and residents are also concerned about unsafe tap water, said Sister Lauter. Many families haul and store water or rely on bottled water, which is contributing to pollution on a reservation that also struggles with access to trash disposal, she noted.
WWB reached out to the Navajo people last year at the height of the pandemic, intending to ramp up the partnership. However, the effort to send water filters stalled due to high rates of COVID-19 infection and quarantine requirements on the reservation.
WWB’s goal is to donate 20,000 filters to members of the Navajo Nation over the course of about four years and is seeking donations to do so.
One hundred filters have been donated so far — 40 of them were sent last year before the pandemic shut down the effort, said Sister Lauter.
Two pilot groups have already been established. Those groups are being trained to teach others how to use the filters. Sister Lauter hopes that by August three more groups can be formed.
Since its start 10 years ago, WWB has had a distinct distribution and training model. Typically, WWB trains “water women” in groups and asks that they make a covenant with God to share a filter with three other families.
This model will be altered a bit because families on the Navajo reservation typically live dozens of miles apart and may not be able to share a filter, said Sister Lauter.
Those who’ve received filters have been asked to “honor the gift” by taking care of the filter and to “honor the blessing by finding some way to bless someone else or pray for someone who doesn’t have clean water,” said Sister Lauter.