St_Bonaventure_Water_LadyIn the Northwest corner of New Mexico, members of the Navajo Nation consider Darlene Arviso to be a living saint.

They call her The Water Lady because she drives 50 miles in the St. Bonaventure Indian Mission’s big yellow water truck, which provides water to the Smith Lake Navajo Nation community.

About 40% of the Navajo Nation has to make their water stretch. As NPR’s Code Switch recently reported, tribe members there, on average, use 7 gallons a day to drink, cook, bathe and clean. The average person in the U.S. uses about 100 gallons a day.

The Water Lady brings water to 250 homes a month, so residents can fill plastic barrels, buckets, jars and any other containers they have.

But the water truck is an imperfect solution because roads become impassable in winter, when residents have to melt snow or collect water from livestock basins.

A more permanent solution may soon be possible. The St. Bonaventure Indian Mission sought help from George McGraw, the founder of a nonprofit called DIGDEEP, which provides water systems to developing countries and some American homes.

A more permanent solution

McGraw’s team will begin digging a well to reach clean water they found 1,800 feet below the surface. DIGDEEP is raising money to allow it to pipe the well water to people’s homes. It will cost about $300,000 to dig the well. So far DIGDEEP has raised $50,000.

Until then, Arviso will keep hauling water to the Navajo Nation. She understands all too well how much they depend on her visits. She got running water only 15 years ago.

And she’s still the only member of her extended family with running water. She told Code Switch that her sisters, four adult children and her grandchildren all come to her house to shower, do the laundry and fill their water barrels.

In the Navajo Nation, tribe member Georgianna Johnson told NPR, “When people see the giant yellow truck coming down the road, it’s as if they’ve seen Santa coming down the chimney.”

Innovairre is proud of the devotion and great work of our partner, the St. Bonaventure Indian Mission.

– Don McKenzie is President & Chief Growth Officer of Innovairre, which supports over 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. Don can be reached at