Water is Life Fund projects help expand water, sanitation, and hygiene services at the community level, said Katie Janss.
The Water is Life Fund is a microgrant program designed to directly provide grassroots funding to people with immediately actionable ideas to address water access in their community.
The program awards $100,000 – over two application cycles – each year: four $10,000 grants, four $5,000 grants, and two $20,000 grants. The deadline for the current round is April 15 at 11:59 p.m. (MDT).
The grants are to pay for the repairs on a pickup truck used to deliver water to elders, test water quality at a school to understand how to fix discoloration and deploy a solar-powered water filtration system.
The grants aren’t for paying personal water bills and developing an irrigation system for crops.
The program focuses on high-impact solutions to promote health and well-being in the Navajo Nation, where many Diné families live off-grid.
DigDeep and Kohler, a manufacturing company, launched the program last year to help community leaders and groups do community-led water-access projects. Six projects received funding around July 2021, and at least four more received a grant at the end of the year.
Those six projects included Forgotten People’s pilot project to install three in-home water systems for regular water deliveries for a year on Navajo-Hopi Partition Land; K’é For Sustainable Communities’ water delivery route to 60 families in the Oak Springs and Pine Springs, Arizona, communities; and Chizh for Cheii bi “chidí improvement project.”
Janss, the research manager for DigDeep’s Navajo Water Project, said when DigDeep and Kohler first announced the microgrant program early last year, she and her team received an outpouring of interest from people who shared their ideas and became part of the solution.
“The best solutions often come from people who are living these challenges day after day,” Janss said at the time, “and know what needs to be done but lack the funding or resources to do so.”
Janss said the program gives people an opportunity to build upon their ideas and create a better life for themselves, their families, and the broader Diné Bikéyah. The microgrant program will support up to 30 entrepreneurs or community groups over three years.
In its second year, the program is currently prioritizing projects in Diné Bikéyah.
Janss said a project should be designed to meet human needs, not livestock or agricultural water projects.
“People who apply, they can be individuals or somebody whose delivered water out of the back of their pickup truck,” Janss explained, “and they just need a repair on their truck. They’re the perfect candidate for the Water is Life Fund.
“Our only limit is it (project) has to be for drinking water,” she said. “It’s for people who are running a project that are helping other people get running water.”
This means the funds are for projects that are for a community.
Janss said those applying in behalf of an organization, that organization must have an annual operating budget of less than $3 million.
“The entire grant (Water is Life Fund) has been very generously funded by the Kohler company,” Janss said. “They’ve given us (DigDeep) $100,000 a year for three years to run this program. So, we started by advertising (for) projects within the Navajo Nation because DigDeep has worked in the Navajo Nation for a while, and it’s a place we know best.
“We’ll probably expand our eligibility in the coming years too.”
Janss said she hopes the Water is Life Fund helps Diné get more water and supports entrepreneurs and local groups.
“I want to use this Fund to hopefully empower people to solve these problems,” Janss said. “I just really want as many people as possible who are eligible to apply.”
She said those interested should apply online (navajowaterproject.org/water-is-life-fund) or print a paper application and send it to P.O. Box 26779, Los Angeles, CA 90026.
Those who don’t have access to a printer or a computer to get on the Fund’s website should visit one of the chapter houses within DigDeep’s Navajo Water Project service-area chapter houses: Thoreau, New Mexico; Naatsis’áán, Utah, and Dilkon, Arizona.
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