WATER IN THE NAVAJO NATION

“I am collaborating with the Navajo Nation’s Water Management Branch, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, and the Navajo Nation’s Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate water in the Four Corners region in three different ways. One way was precipitation climatology looking at the monthly, seasonal, and yearly changes from 2002-2015. The second project was looking at the North American monsoon and how it’s related to all the other groundwater, lakes, springs, and streams in the region from 2014-2017, and the third project was looking at groundwater sustainability and susceptibility to contamination in Fort Defiance, AZ.

I wanted to have the support of the tribal members who work for these agencies. Some of the technicians have collected water data and seen 30+ years of precipitation changes. I can look at the numbers but at the same time if I talk to an individual who is familiar with the area I am able to learn more  about water impacts on vegetation, the flow of streams in streams that flow year round and intermittently, and other knowledge that isn’t necessarily recorded in the database, such as traditional and cultural impacts related to changes in water quantity and quality.

The two technicians I worked with on the first project are co-authors on a recently-published paper. I really feel it’s important to give ownership of the work to them because they were the ones who were an integral part of setting up the precipitation network I evaluated. I also submitted to a journal that’s open access so that tribal managers, tribal politicians, and community members could look at this work and see the precipitation climatology for the region.

The environment I grew up led to me developing these research interests and related to me choosing projects to work with my tribe. I think the place we come from often leads to a path of our educational interests.”

—Crystal Tulley-Cordova, doctoral candidate in Department of Geology & Geophysics. This research was supported by the EPA STAR Fellowship, Navajo Nation, U.S. Forest Service, Intertribal Timber Council, Global Change & Sustainability Center

Watershed Stories is a pop-up series exploring water work across the University of Utah campus. The stories are curated by the U Water Center, the Sustainability Office, and the Global Change & Sustainability Center.