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Native American households in Nevada more likely to face ‘plumbing poverty’

This is an image of a combination lock on the end of an outdoor water faucet attached to a red-tiled wall.
Frank Armstrong
From 1990 to 2019, an average of 0.67% of Native American households in Nevada were without either piped water, a shower or a flush toilet.

In 2019, more than 20,000 Native American community members in Nevada lacked complete indoor plumbing, a condition known as “plumbing poverty.” That’s according to a new study by researchers at the Desert Research Institute and the Guinn Center for Policy Priorities.

The two Nevada-based organizations analyzed data from 1990 to 2019. Over that span, an average of 0.67% of Native American households in Nevada were without either piped water, a shower or a flush toilet. The national average over those 30 years was 0.4%.

Erick Bandala, assistant research professor of environmental science at DRI and lead author of the study, says water security is an issue many tribal communities face across the Mountain West.

“There has been a historical lack of investment in Native American communities related with investment on infrastructure,” he said.

Bandala says other factors adding to the problem are population growth, climate change and water rights.

The study also showed a significant increase in the number of Safe Drinking Water Act violations in water facilities serving Nevada’s tribal communities from 2005 to 2020.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist who joined KUNR as a reporter in November 2021.
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