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I have occasionally used the adage, “You don’t miss the water until the well runs dry,” but most Americans have probably never seen a well, much less rely on one for water. Surprisingly, there are still many Americans who get their water from wells not because they choose to, but because it is their only source. According to the 2011 American Community Survey, nearly 700,000 households in the U.S. still lack basic plumbing facilities in their homes. That’s hot and cold running water, a flushable toilet and a bathtub or shower. In Indian communities in particular, the numbers are even higher. In fact, 12 percent of the homes that American Indians and Alaskan Native live in do not have safe water and basic sanitation facilities. In the southwestern part of the Navajo Nation (Arizona and Utah), people must carry water from wells and pay more for it than city residents.
Recently HUD and four other federal agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that renewed a commitment to work together to reduce by 50 percent the number of tribal homes lacking access to safe water and basic sanitation by 2015. Although an interagency effort that began in 2000 has brought more water to many and addressed these sanitation deficiencies, there’s still much more that needs to be done to provide this basic human necessity that most of us take for granted. This MOU is an important development in this effort. More information about this effort can be found here.