Navajo Nation Does Not Reopen San Juan River

San Juan River photo

Published August 16, 2015

WINDOW ROCK, ARIZONA – The Office of the Navajo Nation President and Vice President is continuing to advise Navajo farmers along the San Juan River to refrain from using the river for crop irrigation or livestock watering.

While the State of New Mexico’s Department of Environmental Quality has issued a press release lifting advisories for crop irrigation and livestock watering, the Navajo Nation will wait on comprehensive data sets and a complete analysis from the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency (NNEPA) before lifting any advisories.

“I will lift the advisory only upon completion of the analysis by NNEPA and am ensured that the water is safe,” said President Russell Begaye.

The NNEPA is waiting for results from data samples taken from Gold King Mine which will indicate whether or not heavy metals have completely dropped out of the water system in the Silverton and Durango area.

According to NNEPA, waste water from Gold King Mine is being treated at the mine’s base before being released into the Animas River. The Animas River flows into the San Juan River where it then moves west across the Navajo Nation.

The NNEPA has indicated that initial results show that pH levels have decreased in waterways closest to the Gold King Mine. However, these levels increase as the San Juan River moves further west toward Montezuma Creek and Mexican Hat.

In waiting for a comprehensive analysis of data, the Navajo Nation is taking a precautionary measure to ensure the water will be safe to use before opening the river to irrigation and livestock watering.

“We don’t want to contaminate the entire Navajo irrigation system,” said Vice President Jonathan Nez. “We will wait for the City of Farmington to flush out their system before we open our irrigation systems so that we don’t get any of those contaminants.”

Water Distribution Points for Livestock and Irrigation

  • A 10,000 gallon watering tank for livestock purposes and two 16,000 gallon watering tanks for irrigation purposes are currently located at the Upper Fruitland rodeo grounds.
  • A 12,000 gallon watering tank for livestock purposes is currently placed at the Shiprock rodeo grounds.
  • A 2,000 gallon watering tank for livestock purposes and two 16,000 gallon watering tanks for irrigation purposes are currently located at the Gadii’ahi Chapter. All of these tanks will be refilled by the USEPA on a daily basis.

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  1. Martin Rena 2 years ago