CROWNPOINT, NM – On Sept. 22, 2020, Navajo Technical University president Dr. Elmer J. Guy and New Mexico Tech (NMT) president Dr. Stephen Wells signed a Memorandum of Understanding to improve access to drinking water in remote locations on the Navajo Nation that lack pipeline and municipal water systems. The two-year agreement will focus on locations that have access to tanks or water wells that provide water unsuitable for human or animal consumption, but have water that can be purified.
“It is really a good opportunity to have two of the New Mexico tech universities come together and to share resources. Both schools are strong in STEM education,” explained Dr. Guy in a closed signing ceremony that was also streamed to an outside audience. “It’s really to benefit the students in our communities. I feel it will be a very positive thing.”
Collaboration between the two institutions is expected to draw layered benefit to the region. Aside from improving access to clean water, the project will also lend itself to education where NTU students can be trained in drinking water standards and sampling filtration units that benefit agriculture, livestock, and day-to-day consumption. At the same time, NMT will be able to develop water treatment units at a commercial scale and utilize its expertise and technology to serve a need on the Navajo Nation.
The initiative will also create economic opportunities related to commercializing filtration technology throughout the region. Filtration units must be self-contained with on-site maintenance, so training will emphasize inspection and assuring operational effectiveness of each unit. Training will also be provided in installation and troubleshooting.
“I’ve witnessed what happens to communities who get water that is safe and reliable, and it’s a transformation we want to bring to the Navajo Nation,” explained Dr. Wells, noting previous work with the Hilton Foundation and World Vision. “We’re bringing together people that understand technology and education to effectively address the challenges we have.”
“We see this as a significant opportunity to merge our knowledge in engineering and science with the Diné Philosophy of Education. We want to learn from you as you learn from us,” continued Dr. Wells.
Under the MOU, NTU and NMT will coordinate in identifying sites for sampling and water purification, train local community members to operate and maintain the purification units, and conduct water samples across the Navajo Nation. Each institution will also work at fundraising to help sustain the program. Field tests and training are expected to begin by the end of the year with the expectation of eventually providing portable units throughout the nation in collaboration with NMT’s Farmington, NM based industrial development partner, Pesco.
NMT is located in Socorro, NM where it operates the Petroleum Recovery Research Center (PRRC). The PRRC is the leading research center for water filtration and purification with demonstrated technological capabilities, and will be a key member in the effort along with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology. Both the PRRC and the New Mexico Bureau of Geology are state designated divisions at NMT.
For more information about the collaboration, contact Dr. Casmir Agbaraji at firstname.lastname@example.org.