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DRI study reveals ‘plumbing poverty’ more likely in Native American homes


Native American households are less likely to have complete indoor plumbing than other households in Nevada according to new data published by researchers at Desert Research Institute. 

In a study conducted by DRI and the Guinn Center for Policy Priorities researchers found that in 2019 more than 20,000 Native American people in Nevada faced “plumbing poverty,” or a lack of complete indoor plumbing, which includes hot and cold piped water, a flush toilet and a bathtub or shower.

Overall, 0.67% of Native American households in Nevada lacked complete indoor plumbing versus 0.4% for the general U.S. population, researchers found.

Plumbing poverty also increased with the number of family members living under the same roof.

“Native American communities in the Western U.S., including Nevada, are particularly vulnerable to water security challenges because of factors including population growth, climate change, drought and water rights,” DRI officials said. “In rural areas, aging or absent water infrastructure creates additional challenges.”

In addition to data on household plumbing characteristics gathered from the U.S. Census from 1990-2019, researchers used water quality data from the Environmental Protection Agency. 

From 2005 to 2020 the number of Safe Drinking Water Act violations affecting Tribal communities also increased. “The most common health-based violations included presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), presence of coliform bacteria, and presence of inorganic chemicals,” researchers said. 

Such challenges are visible in tribal communities such as the Yerington Paiute Tribe where the groundwater supplying a number of homes was contaminated with uranium, arsenic and other toxins. Contamination from the nearby Anaconda Copper Mine was suspected, and Atlantic Richfield Co., which owned the mine, provided bottled water to households while investigations were underway.

The tribal members affected by the contamination had no access to municipal water systems. 

The full study, “Water security in native American communities of Nevada” is online at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1462901122002179?dgcid=author.

Source: DRI

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