Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Native Americans and Water

Continuing on our theme of water from the last post, let's take a look at two cases where the quality and quantity of clean water on Native American lands is threatened.

First, we'll look at the southwestern U.S.  The Colorado river flows over 2,300 km through seven U.S. states.  It provides water for 30 million people, or about 1/10 of the U.S. population, and it helps to irrigate 15% of U.S. crops.  The many dams along the river divide the water between various stakeholders.  Unfortunately, Native Americans are a group that did not receive substantial portions of this water when it was originally divided up.  Take a look at this CBS Sunday Morning piece about people living without access to water:

Currently, there's also a water protest happening in the northern part of the U.S.  Many tribes are protesting the 1,172 mile Dakota Access pipeline.  This pipeline runs through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the $3.8 billion pipeline that is currently under construction.  What's the problem?  The pipeline crosses the Missouri River one mile north of the reservation, which the tribes say could endanger their only source of water.  From the Washington Post, (Joe Heim, 9/7/16):  

"That river is the source of water for the reservation’s 8,000 residents. Any leak, tribal leaders argue, would do immediate and irreparable harm. And tribal leaders point to what they see as a double standard, saying that the pipeline was originally planned to cross the Missouri north of Bismarck, the state capital, but was rerouted because of powerful opposition that did not want a threat to the water supply there.

The tribe says it also is fighting the pipeline’s path because even though it does not cross the reservation, it does traverse sacred territory taken away from the tribe in a series of treaties that were forced upon it over the past 150 years."

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