And, there are more phases to come. When completed, the entire $1 billion project will include 280 miles of pipelines, several pumping stations and two treatment plants.
It will supply clean water to the entire Navajo Nation – 27,000 square miles spanning parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah and home to more than 200,000 people.
“These areas rely on rapidly depleting groundwater of poor quality that is inadequate to meet current and future demands,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in a press release.
The first phase of the project will improve on the present pipeline which draws water from underground aquifers. The water system will eventually pump and treat water from the San Juan River basin.
The first water delivery to the Navajo communities could occur in two to three years, said Salazar. Further portions will be constructed by the city of Gallup, the Navajo Nation and the Indian Health Service with financial assistance agreements with the Bureau of Reclamation.
The project is expected to create 400 to 600 construction jobs, depending on the phase of the project.
“The permanent water supply will vastly improve the quality of life and offer greater economic security for the Navajo Nation,” Salazar said. “The project is one of 14 high priority infrastructure projects identified by the Obama Administration to be expedited through the permitting and environmental review process.”
The Department of the Interior, the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the state of New Mexico and the Bureau of Indian Affairs are contributing to the project. Gallup and the Jicarilla Apache tribe have a repayment agreement with the federal government.