Durango Telegraph - Piping into the Reservation: Navajo pipeline forges ahead
Piping into the Reservation: Navajo pipeline forges ahead

Toxins are not the only threat to the San Juan River. The Animas-La Plata project’s big brother is taking shape downstream along the banks of the waterway, as the Navajo-Gallup water supply project forges ahead. Though the project promises to bring potable water to the Navajo Reservation, it will greatly dewater the San Juan.

At an estimated cost of $1 billion and water intake of 322,000 acre-feet per year, the new Four Corners water project will dwarf Animas-La Plata both in finances and infrastructure. (A-LP, which is nearly complete just south of downtown Durango, is a 120,000 acre-foot project with a current cost estimate of $500 million). The Bureau of Reclamation began field and exploration work on the pipeline last fall, and the settlement agreement was authorized in December.

The majority of the funding for the Navajo project would go to the construction of an elaborate pipeline that would siphon water out of the San Juan River in the vicinity of Shiprock and feed the eastern side of the reservation.

“It takes working together to beat the beast,” Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. said at the signing of the settlement. “And that’s why I’m very thankful. Because of the settlement, it will bring water to 80,000 of my people, many of whom are elders, up in years, who are hauling water to this day.”

While the benefits are tangible, the impacts of the project are undetermined. As proposed, the pipeline would take as much 180 cubic feet of water per second from the San Juan.

– Will Sands

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