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Officials mark completion of Navajo water treatment plant

October 22, 2020 GMT

DZILTH-NA-O-DITH-HLE, N.M. (AP) — Construction is complete on a water treatment plant that will help provide the Navajo Nation and surrounding areas with a clean and reliable source of drinking water.

Years in the making, the project is the result of a settlement agreement over water rights in the San Juan Basin. Construction still is underway on other parts of the system.

Officials from the federal Bureau of Reclamation, along with the Navajo Nation and other agencies, gathered at the treatment plant this week to tour the facility. It was constructed in two phases to receive San Juan River water for treatment then delivery by pipeline to Navajo communities and the southwest portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

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The bureau will test and monitor the treatment plant and the pipeline for the next six months while the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority introduces water from the plant into six distribution systems, the Farmington Daily Times reported.

After the pre-commissioning, the bureau will hand off operations, maintenance and replacement responsibilities to the Navajo utility.

Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said she was proud that construction on this portion of the system was finished and that water would be flowing soon.

“To know that there can be a clean, reliable water supply is so important for health. It’s so important for safety. It’s overwhelmingly important for building a strong economy on the Navajo Nation,” Burman said.

For Navajo President Jonathan Nez, the plant and pipeline’s completion will help with economic development in communities along U.S. Highway 550.

“Now it’s upon us to get homes tied into the major trunk line,” he said.

He said the Cutter Lateral can serve as a model for the Western Navajo Pipeline, a proposed infrastructure system to send water from Lake Powell to chapters in the western part of the reservation.

The treatment plant, located on an area administered by the Bureau of Land Management near Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle in northwestern New Mexico, will receive river water via two reservoirs and pumping plants. The plant will remove sediments, organic matter and microbial contaminants from the water before additional processes ensure the supply meets state drinking water standards.

The plant was designed to treat a peak flow of 3.5 million gallons per day and has the capability to treat 5.4 million gallons per day in the future.