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UA helping Native American tribes overcome climate change, COVID impacts

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 5:50 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Native American nations are feeling the serious impacts of climate change and the pandemic. The University of Arizona is helping tribes overcome challenges such as water insecurity.

“They walk three miles to a well that’s primarily used for livestock. Then use a gas-powered pump to pump up the ground water, fill up their containers and go back,” said Dr. Karletta Chief, Associate Professor of Environmental Science.

Dr. Chief is leading efforts through the UA’s Indigenous Resilience Center to improve issues that COVID has amplified.

“When it comes to water insecurity, this simple act of washing your hands is such a big challenge that just need water for drinking,” she said.

Droughts and flooding caused by climate change are also having major impacts on water access.

“Of course, that has wreaked havoc on culture, tradition as well as food and health. It’s a pretty major problem,” said Professor Kathy Jacobs, Director of the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions.

Recently, Dr. Chief and her team visited several families living in remote areas on the reservation. They’re helping them get off-grid water systems. She’s excited to see the tribes embrace the systems many of which work off solar power and can make rainwater drinkable.

“Asking them to be part of that design and allowing them to be the leaders and take off with it,” Dr. Chief said.

“From my perspective, the tribes are in a position where they really need help,” Professor Jacobs. “They’re interested in partnerships with us, so this is great.”

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