The Walker River Paiute Tribe in Northern Nevada is set to receive $5.2 million in grants to improve water infrastructure throughout their reservation.
On Tuesday, Democratic U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen announced that the Walker River Paiute Tribe will receive economic development funds through the American Rescue Plan’s Indiginous Communities program. The grants are designed to boost the tribe’s local economy by funding improvements to water infrastructure.
Amber Torres, chair of the Walker River Paiute Tribe, said the investment would support the tribe’s Water System Improvement project and secure clean drinking water to the community, expand capacity to add new homes and “bring much needed employment opportunities to the region.”
“The Walker River Paiute Tribe, like many Indian Nations across the country, was negatively affected by the pandemic. Our community continues to work to recover and finds ways to come out stronger and more resilient,” said Torres.
Improvements to sanitation facilities can reduce inpatient and outpatient visits related to respiratory, skin and soft tissue, and gastroenteric disease, according to the Indian Health Service. Every $1 spent on water and sewer infrastructure can save $1.23 in avoided direct healthcare costs.
But failing infrastructure and paltry funding for tribes in Nevada over decades has likely contributed to the growing number of Native American households in the state facing plumbing and water quality problems, according to researchers.
Researchers found that between 1990 and 2019, an average of 0.67% of Native American households in Nevada lacked complete indoor plumbing – higher than the national average of 0.4%.
Analysis of Native American communities in Nevada revealed a consistent decline in access to complete indoor plumbing over the last few decades, with more than 20,000 people affected in 2019. That same year, about 15,000 people living in Native communities in the state did not have access to hot running water.
That trend bucks the national trend of water and sanitation infrastructure improving over the decades, say researchers.
“Water infrastructure can have a significant effect on the health and economy of a community, and it is critical that we protect access to clean water for all Nevadans,” said Rosen in a statement. “I’m proud to have helped secure this funding through the American Rescue Plan, which will expand existing water infrastructure for the Walker River Paiute Tribe and boost ongoing conservation efforts, while also creating jobs and increasing the community’s economic resilience.”
Cortez Masto and Rosen have acknowledged the need for investments in Nevada’s tribal communities, helping to secure measures in the Inflation Reduction Act to make it easier for tribes in Nevada to launch critical energy development projects. The Department of Energy estimates that 6.5% of the nation’s total renewable energy resources is located on tribal land.
“Tribes in Nevada and across the country were hit hard by the pandemic, and I supported this funding to make sure they were able to recover,” Cortez Masto said in a statement. “I’ll continue working on behalf of Nevada Tribes to make sure they have the infrastructure they need to grow their economies and create good-paying jobs.”
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