New Mexico Geological Society Annual Spring Meeting — Abstracts

Determining Key Factors in Well Selection Criteria for Navajo Technical University-New Mexico Tech-Navajo Nation Water Purification Project (n4wpp)

Taylor Cecelia Yazzie2, Bonnie Frey1, Daniel Cadol2, Ranalda Tsosie2, Laila Sturgis1, Emily Woolsey3 and Abhishek Roychowdhury4

1New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, 801 Leroy Pl, Socorro, NM, 87801
2New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, 801 Leroy Pl, Socorro, NM, 87801
3INTERA Incorporated
4Navajo Technical University

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Access to clean and safe water is a fundamental human right. Yet, many indigenous communities, including the Navajo Nation, face persistent challenges in securing potable water sources due to pollution and inadequate infrastructure. The Navajo Reservation, spanning portions of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, faces multifaceted water contamination issues from natural and anthropogenic sources. These challenges include arsenic and uranium contamination from geological formations, mining activities, and inadequate wastewater treatment facilities. Consequently, residents face heightened risks of waterborne illnesses and long-term health effects.

In response to these challenges, N4WPP aims to install filtration units on the Navajo Reservation in conjunction with Navajo Technical University and New Mexico Tech. The project proposes establishing comprehensive selection criteria to guide the prioritization and implementation of water purification initiatives on the Navajo Reservation. The selection criteria encompass a multidimensional approach, considering technical feasibility, environmental sustainability, cultural appropriateness, and community engagement.

Technical feasibility factors include assessing available water sources, water quality parameters, and the suitability of purification technologies for addressing specific contaminants prevalent in the region. Environmental sustainability considerations encompass the ecological impacts of purification methods, energy requirements, and the potential for long-term maintenance and scalability.

Cultural appropriateness criteria recognize the importance of indigenous perspectives and traditional knowledge in water management practices. This involves engaging with Navajo communities to incorporate culturally relevant approaches, respect sacred water sites, and uphold tribal sovereignty in decision-making processes.

Historical water quality records from the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency and Navajo Nation Water Resources Department guide the search for suitable wells. Wells with high levels of total dissolved solids (TDS) are the initial target for the filtration unit.

Another criterion considered was access; the location must be close enough to Navajo Technical University or New Mexico Tech, Alamo Chapter. The reasoning was that students would train on the unit, and students and other team members would teach community members how to run and maintain the units.

The last criterion evaluated was the conditions of the well. There had to be a place to attach the unit that would not hinder the operation of the tank. The location had to be easily accessible and navigable so that a trailer-mounted filtration unit could be easily installed.

Evaluation of existing data has identified wells that meet all criteria: Lake Valley (15T-584) and Baca-Prewitt (10T-241A). Well 15T-584 was chosen due to the proximity to Navajo Technical University and high TDS levels. Well 10T-241A was selected because of its proximity to Navajo Technical University, the amount of water produced, and the high levels of TDS and uranium.


Navajo Nation, Hydrology

pp. 79-80

2024 New Mexico Geological Society Annual Spring Meeting
April 19, 2024, Macey Center, Socorro, NM
Online ISSN: 2834-5800