Water crisis hits Navajo community amid looming COVID-19 fears

Apr 15, 2020

Recent COVID-19-panic shopping stripped store shelves of bottled water, leaving the 2,000 residents of To’Hajiilee without drinking water. Over the years, five of the six wells supplying the satellite Navajo Nation community 20 miles west of Albuquerque have run dry, with the last generating mineral and sediment-steeped water that looks like orange juice and smells like rotten eggs.

“A lot of people don’t drink this water because it has bad taste, even when you make it with coffee,” said To’Hajiilee Chapter President Mark Begay. 

When the stores ran short after the panic buying in mid-March, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority began sending water tankers to the community, which lies within the boundaries of Bernalillo County. Residents drove to them to fill water jugs, buckets, and anything else they can, congregating while trying to maintain social distance, Begay said. This situation comes as the state of New Mexico has ordered people not to gather in groups of more than five and to regularly wash hands.

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