Rotary mag features Sun Lakes Rotarians - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Rotary mag features Sun Lakes Rotarians

August 5th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Rotary mag features Sun Lakes Rotarians

Dr. Honora Norton
Guest Writer

Rotary International’s Rotary Magazine, with over 1.2 worldwide subscribers, recently featured the Rotary Clubs of Gilbert and Sun Lakes as champions of a Navajo Water Project.

In 2016, members of the Rotary Club of Gilbert attended a water conference in Phoenix and learned from a representative of DigDeep about its work in the Navajo Nation and how it was bringing water to the people living there.

DigDeep delivers a 1,200-gallon cistern, which is then buried outside the home. Technicians plumb a sink, water heater, filter and drain line; where families don’t have electricity hookup, a solar panel is installed with battery array and electrical hookup to provide electricity to power the pump and lights.

A tanker truck arrives and fills the cistern with clean water through an above ground valve and the homeowner receives training to operate, maintain and repair the system, as well as a number to call should problems incur. All this enfolds over 24 hours.

The Gilbert Rotarians learned that each installation costs $4,500 and worked with Rotary International District 4185 in Mexico to co-sponsor a global grant to support the Navajo Water Project.

With the assistance of Jim Bissonett, RI Arizona District 5495 Rotary Foundation Chair and RI R-Club Southwest, a global grant was initiated.

Bissonett said the real story is the Navajo Nation is in our backyard. He recalled the eagerness of Gary Whiting of the Rotary Club of Sun Lakes, a past RI District Governor, offering to undertake a similar project.

In May 2018, the Rotary Club of Gilbert and its international Partner in Mexico, the Rotary Club of San Andres Cholula, launched the first phase of Navajo Water Project. Backed by a $78,000 RI Global Grant, they provided home water systems for 18 families – the 64 individuals near Thoreau, New Mexico.

The magazine said Curt ward, a member and past president of the Rotary Club of Gilbert, was a relative newcomer to the Southwest.

“I moved here from Iowa in 2014, and water poverty was a new thing to me,” he told the magazine, which said that even before the pandemic, Ward had begun reading about the water problems in the Navajo Nation and he was shocked to learn that while the average American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day, the average Navajo uses only seven.

“And in some cases,” Ward says, “it’s less than that.”

In 2019, the Sun Lakes Rotary Club partnered with a sister club in Ontario, Canada, and completed the second phase. They provided home water systems to 33 families – that’s more than 100 individuals –with the support of a $144,000 global grant.

The final tally for the third global grant for the Navajo Nation totaled $395,000; its international partner was the Rotary Club of Merida-Itzaes, Mexico and its host club was the Rotary Club of Four Peaks in Fountain Hills.

Because of quarantine restrictions, DigDeep could no longer interact directly with residents of the Navajo Nation. During the first 18 months of the pandemic, DigDeep delivered more than a million gallons of water ad setup temporary water access tanks at almost 1,500 homes.

The Rotary Magazine article goes into detail about the Navajo Water Project and life within the Navajo Nation.

At a recent dinner meeting, Sun Lakes Rotarian John McKoy provided an overview of the Navajo Water Project and its significant impacts.

McKoy, Whiting and Sun Lakes Rotarians Peter Meade and Stan Kaufman participated in the Sun Lakes portion of the Navajo Project’s RI Global Grant.

McKoy and Meade presented the project at the 2018 RI International Conference in Toronto, which had over 25,000 attendees. Additionally, at the RCSL meeting, Mr. McKoy shared his childhood experiences as a member of the Oklahoma Chickasaw Nation and later in life his interactions with Sanders, Arizona, Navajo Nation schools.