Water Scarcity and Drought on the Navajo Nation: What You Can do to Help

Overview:

Water scarcity is the lack of water found within a given ecosystem and this is an ongoing and growing issue on the Navajo Nation. The lack of water infrastructure and the changing climate are creating a problematic situation for communities and wildlife across the Navajo Nation.


At the local level, residents have observed:

Water:

  • Locals have observed water wells are going dry, and if they recharge they are not recharging until early morning. This makes it even more difficult to haul water for residents on the Navajo Nation. This is due to the drought the southwest region is experiencing.

  • Just like the water wells, the natural springs on the Navajo Nation are drying up and/or experiencing low levels.

Wildlife:

  • Since there is an ongoing explosion of feral horse populations on the Navajo Nation, they directly compete with the forage that mule deer consume. Therefore, drought and feral horse competition are causing a massive decline in mule deer populations. Residents and the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife (NNDFW) are both witnessing less deer on Navajo lands, which has resulted in less deer for the Navajo people to harvest.

  • Since the drought is effecting the fauna and flora of Navajo lands bears and cougars are encroaching into housed areas in search for food. NNDFW conservation officers are experiencing more calls to capture and potentially put these animals down.

  • As good range management teaches, one must listen to the land and rest it accordingly. We are seeing this in parts of the Navajo Nation as livestock owners need to lower livestock numbers. This is essential due to the increasing impact of overgrazing, erosion, and desertification the Navajo Nation is experiencing.

  • Residents are also witnessing reptiles missing from their normal habitats and do not return for longer periods of time.

Plants:

The Navajo Nation is experiencing:

  • Desertification - the process by which natural or human causes reduce the biological productivity of dry lands causing fertile areas to become increasingly more arid. This causes dirt to be blown on top of the snow on the Chuska Mountains. This causes the snow albedo to lower which then speeds up snow melt.

  • Plant Migration and Plant Reproduction - Native plants and herbs are hard to find due to the changing climate and lack of water.

  • Overgrazing - excessive grazing to an extent that the land is damaged. Too many livestock grazing in one area, that has too little forage (grass). This leads to desertification.

Weather and Climate

  • There is an ongoing drought, which is a shortage of water over an extended period of time. The Navajo Nation (and much of the United States) is experiencing less rain and snowfall.