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Shiprock Farmers Scramble To Save Fields

Marisa Demarco / KUNM
The San Juan River flows under the bridge in Shiprock.

It’s been nearly two weeks since the Gold King Mine spill caused the shut down of San Juan River irrigation to farms on the Navajo Nation. Emergency stopgap measures aren’t quite panning out. 

The Navajo Nation sent its own tankers full of water as a temporary solution to save wilting crops after farmers in Shiprock turned away trucks sent by the EPA, saying they came bearing more contaminated water. 

But Shiprock Chapter President Duane “Chili” Yazzie said after a Navajo Nation tanker tried flood-irrigating a field row-by-row, they realized it would take too long; the trucks are needed elsewhere on Navajo land, too. They set up tanks and filled them so that farmers could haul the water themselves.

"It does make a problem, because many of the farmers would not have the capability to deliver the amount of water that their crops need," Yazzie said. "Not everybody’s equipped to do that."

The farmers voted to issue a memorandum to the Bureau of Indian Affairs calling for a better water-delivery system. They also want an alternative long-term irrigation option for the hundreds of farms in the Shiprock area.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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