Tribal Access to Clean Water: Public Health Emergency

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Learning Outcomes

  • Learn about the lack of access to clean water for Native American Tribes and how to recognize long-standing institutionalized racism
  • Understand how planners can work with Native American communities and other indigenous cultures.
  • Learn from Native American perspectives on long-term water management challenges.


The Water and Tribes Initiative, now in its fourth year, is changing the role of Tribal Communities in shaping long-term water management in the Colorado River Basin. Explore how the lack of access to clean water for Tribal Communities led to Native Americans being 3.5 times more likely to contract COVID-19, how existing programs have failed to address the problem, and what can be done to fix this long-standing inequity. Learn about issues related to water management, infrastructure, differing cultural perspectives, and inequities, and how federal and state programs can be modified to address these challenges.

This effort serves as a case study for how planners can effectively begin solving complex and controversial issues that include long-standing structural racism. Native American leaders and a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Interior discuss mechanisms to incorporate long-neglected Native American perspectives into public policy and ways planners can effectively work with Tribal Communities.