Navajo Nation president declares emergency over frozen water pipes

Posted at: 01/28/2013 9:16 AM
By: staff

The Navajo Nation is being hit hard by water shortages because of freezing pipes – leading Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly to declare a state of emergency.

According to a news release from the nation, as many as 2,000 homes in the Window Rock area have been affected by water line breakage due to subfreezing temperatures over the past several weeks. Temperatures have been as cold as – 25 degrees Fahrenheit,  with highs only in the teens.

“I am signing this resolution because we need to access emergency services to help our people who have been without water. We have water lines that need repair, water storage containers that need to be replenished, and we need man power to help repairs the water systems that have been damaged,” President Shelly said.

As Navajo Tribal Utility Authority unfroze the large water lines, the pressure created from the water broke other smaller lines that lead to homes and residences. Frozen and broken water lines have compounded into low water pressure issues for residents and communities that do have water. 

The resolution also calls upon residents to conserve water so water storage containers can replenish themselves and restore water pressure. 

“We have always been a resourceful people. Now we need to all come together and conserve water while our water system is repair and our storages are replenished with water. We can do small things like turn off water while we brush our teeth, using towels more than once, or only washing clothing when needed,” President Shelly said. 

The resolution allows the Navajo Nation to activate emergency resources to “restore and sustain vital community infrastructure. I am asking our people to be patient as we tackle this problem,” President Shelly said.

Tribal authorities said that their work crews have been working 15 hours a day and up to 70 hours a week for the past several weeks.

“This resolution allows us to ask for help for extra manpower to tackle these water issues that are happening throughout the Navajo Nation,” President Shelly said.

Public Safety Director John Billison said an emergency operations center will be established by early next week.

“We need to make sure our emergency contingency plans are followed and that we have a central command post where we can structurally organize our teams responding to this emergency,” Billison said.

Navajo Engineering and Constructing Authority have been assisting NTUA with repairing water lines.  Indian Health Services has allocated resources to help with the emergency.