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Even before COVID-19 struck the Navajo Nation hard, people there suffered from lack of running water.

Before a project started by DigDeep, an organization that created technology to deliver water to remote areas where none is available, many Nation residents had to bring water to their homes in buckets and bottles.

Four Peaks Rotary Club joined Rotary International and other Rotary Clubs to work with DigDeep to provide water for Navajo families. The local club was selected to host the Navajo Water Project in Dilkon County in the Navajo Nation.

Paul Perreault, Jr., who spearheaded the project locally said funding from six Rotary Districts and 50 clubs around the world are participating in the project.

The club presented then-District 5495 Governor David Simmer with a check for $10,000 last November. As a result of the local donation, combined with monies from other organizations, eight water systems have been installed.

“Many people in the Navajo Nation have relied on water trucks for their water,” Perreault said. “They would have to drive somewhere to meet up with the trucks, then carry the water home in containers.”

While there are numerous families who still need running water, DigDeep and other organizations are working to mitigate the issue.

Each water system costs $4,500. A 1,200-gallon cistern is placed underground and a motor run by a solar panel pumps water in to the home. The water lasts for about a month; water is refilled by truck monthly.

Perreault said 97 homes have been identified as needing water systems as soon as possible. That is because those homes have young children and elders who are considered most in need.

“While we have a way to go to help everyone, we feel that this is a good start,” Perreault said.

He said when the novel coronavirus hit hard in the Navajo Nation, funds were reallocated to provide above-ground water tanks to more families.

“We had to do a revised grant request so we could change the use of the water,” he said. “Rotary International made an exception for that to happen. Of the total ($400,000) funds, $100,000 was allocated to help as many families as possible.”

The above-ground tanks, which hold 275 gallons, cost $300 each.

“They have provided a lot of help to more people,” Perreault said. “Now the rest of the $300,000 will be utilized to complete more underground systems. We expect about 70 more to be completed.”

The Navajo Water Project is in its third segment, taking place in Dilkon in Arizona. A fourth segment is in the planning stages.

The Navajo Nation’s population is about 200,000. The nation covers 24,000 miles in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Some 70,000 of its people live without running water. By comparison, the average American family consumes 100 gallons of water a day; the average Navajo family consumes seven gallons per day.

Donations for the project are being accepted. To donate, contact Perreault by phone at 480-206-7477. For more information about DigDeep, go to digdeep.org.

Four Peaks Rotary Club’s website is fourpeaksrotary.org.