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New Water Wells Relieve Navajo Livestock During Deadly Drought

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Roughly 1,000 dehydrated cattle in two chapters of the Navajo Nation in Utah have found relief, thanks to new wells provided by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, according to a USDA release.

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Sourcing clean water has long been challenging for the Teec Nos Pos and Red Mesa chapters, who prior to 2000 relied on wells drilled deep into the desert floor. But the tribe’s water code administration tested the wells at the turn of the century and found they contained high levels of arsenic, uranium and E. coli. Since the discovery, ranchers have trucked water for livestock from distances as far as two hours away, because they could not afford to drill new wells. Unfortunately, despite their efforts, the harsh desert conditions caused some cattle to perish.

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Now through USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative, the Navajo Resources Conservation Service has partnered with the chapters and the Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture to dig two new wells and safely decommission the contaminated wells. The National Resource Conservation Service covered 90 percent of the cost of digging the new wells and closing up the old wells.

Now that the new wells have been drilled, Natural Resources Conservation Service is helping the Teec Nos Pos and Red Mesa Chapters install pipeline and troughs to provide multiple access points for cattle to drink from.

The successful project has inspired Fred White, executive director of the Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources, to exploring more opportunities to enhance and protect the tribe’s natural resources with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and other USDA agencies.