Solution Development

In order to develop solutions to a complex problem such as access to water in the Navajo Nation, we divided the problem into many different facets in order to focus more on the quality and specificity of each solution. This allowed us to understand each individual part of the problem more comprehensively and thus tackle the problem from many different angles simultaneously. In this problem of water availability and quality we specifically looked into:

  • Water Filtration
  • Water Collection
  • Water Storage
  • Water Conservation
  • Community Outreach

From these categories, we developed different solutions that specifically solve these stated problems and evaluated them with the following criteria in order to assess their effectiveness in different regions.

Criteria

From these criteria, we developed several solutions to address water contamination, water access, and water rights and issues.

 

We have a wide range of solutions, each with strengths and weaknesses that are best suited for different functions. To analyze each solution holistically, we identified the most important criteria each solution should fulfill and built our solutions with these criteria in mind. Each solution fulfills each criteria on a different scale.

Water scarcity in the Navajo nation is much more than simply a technological problem. In addition to the overall Diné culture, there is a wide variety of viewpoints of the Diné themselves, ranging from perspectives of different age groups, families, and personal beliefs. This unique situation guided our plans for integrating technology and solutions to ensure that our solutions were culturally compatible, therefore increasing their effectiveness through respect for the Diné.

Cost is a huge limiting factor on the implementation of any plan. Thus, the cheaper that a solution is to implement and maintain the more feasible the solution becomes. Some solutions will have a difference between upfront costs and maintenance costs. It may be very expensive to install a solution but if it is virtually maintenance free, this upfront cost may be well worth it, as it will pay for itself in a few years. We must not just look at cost as a flat number but we must also consider the cost relative to other solutions, and in terms of the solution effectiveness. A solution must not only be effective but it must also be cost effective.

Although our solutions aim to reduce the effects of climate change on water availability, accessibility, and quality, our solutions will inevitably have an environmental impact. For example, water hauling will burn fossil fuels and biofiltration systems carry the risk of introducing invasive species. Therefore, we considered the environmental impact both from a local perspective (such as a risk of invasive species) and a global perspective (such as greenhouse gas emissions).

The timeframe for each solution is important in determining how long the community will have to wait for change and how long the solution will be effective. We defined a highly effective long-term solution to last at least a decade working at a similar standard as the time of implementation. We also considered long-term maintenance and its costs, which is especially relevant to filtration technology due to the high initial cost and need for maintenance (which requires training) throughout the lifespan of the filter.

The Navajo nation covers an area of 27,413 mi² and has a population of 332,129 (fact sheet). Solutions that impact the entire reservation and serves a larger amount of the community were considered highly effective.

The time needed for implementation is how long it would take for the solution to start impacting the community. This includes the time to obtain funding for the proposed solution, time to implement the solution (including construction costs and/or training), and the time needed for maintenance. Solutions that can be implemented in less than a year are considered highly effective.

Our Process

Each region has a unique combination of challenges, and no one solution will address all the problems in the region. Instead, we can focus on utilizing a combination of solutions working synchronously in order to solve the problem at large in an effective way. We can tailor the manner in which we apply these solutions individually in order to create a specialized solution for every region. We demonstrate how a combination of solutions could be implemented using a case study, focusing on the region of Bodaway.  Bodaway is on the western area of the Navajo Nation and contains desert scrub and juniper woodlands, and is located above the Coconino reservoir. It is also a low-income area. Therefore, an overall solution for this region utilizes a combination of groundwater collection and storage, groundwater water filtration, and community outreach to address low-income levels.