For the past five years, DigDeep has been focused on solving the water access challenges on the Navajo Nation, where 30% of the 173,000 residents live without a working tap or toilet. We’ve pioneered a community-managed utility alternative there, designing what we call Home Water Systems that provide families with 1200 gallons of clean, hot and cold running water and solar power, filled up every month through a trucking system.
But when we first learned about water access challenges in McDowell County, we were floored. How many more Americans suffer without the clean, running water they so deserve?, we wondered. And how can we build the relationships with community leaders that we’ve so successfully established on the Navajo Nation?
At the end of last year, we released the first ever study of the water access crisis in the US. Entitled Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States: A National Action Plan, we embedded researchers in six “hotspots” of fragile water access in the US and Puerto Rico. And thanks to the hard work of researcher Nora Nelson, and her discovery of the great work at Five Loaves & Two Fishes Food Bank, we were honored to include McDowell County in our research.
That report, and the relationship we’ve been so fortunate to build with the McKinneys and the extraordinary community they serve, led us to pilot a small water access project at the food bank, in the hopes of replacing some of the water bottles that the food bank hands out every month. You may have even seen that project when driving by Route 52: large hydropanels that harness water from the air, using sunlight. The water harvested through these hydropanels is safe to drink and delicious, and we’re proud of the hard work and persistence that the McKinneys put into making this project a reality.
And now, DigDeep is looking toward a future where every family in McDowell County and beyond has access to clean, hot and cold running water. It’s going to take time, collaboration, grit, and a whole lot of creativity; but we’re so excited to launch the Appalachia Water Project and build a better water reality alongside the resilient residents of McDowell.
We welcome you to see more at www.appalachiawaterproject.org, and we look forward to a day when everyone in the US has clean, running water…forever.