By Keli James, PR communications coordinator

Each day, in between her shifts as a school bus driver, Darlene Arviso gets in the St. Bonaventure water truck,fills the 3,500-gallon tank and drives up to 75 miles over rough roads to deliver around 3,000 gallons of water to residents across the Navajo Nation in Thoreau, New Mexico.

Arviso lives in an area where nearly 40 percent of the estimated 173,000 Navajos on the reservation lack access to running water, according to High Country News For some, moving to newer, more centralized communities with modern amenities is appealing, but most prefer to stay on the remote land they have occupied for generations.

“We’re a rural people,” Edmund Yazzie, a tribal lawmaker told HCN. “Some of us don’t want to live in subdivisions. I myself wouldn’t want to live in a subdivision.”-

Even though new wells were drilled by the public water utility, it’s very expensive to hook homes up to water mains. It can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars to connect a single residence. As a result, many people haul their own water or use conveniently located livestock troughs, though the water often makes them sick.

Meanwhile, the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, which will provide water for a small percentage of Navajosliving out on the reservation is moving slowly. The project is part of a 2010 settlement between the tribe and the state of New Mexico over the tribe’s 900,000 acre-feet of unclaimed San Juan River water rights.Each month Arviso delivers water to 250 homes in the area around Thoreau. However, she can reach only 10 or 12 homes each day. That means that the 400 gallons of water each household receives — the amount an average American uses in four days — must last a month.

The people who live in Thoreau feel Arviso is more than just the water lady, she’s a lifeline. She gives her cellphone number to all her clients, and sometimes they call her, asking for help, food or extra blankets, or simply because they need someone to talk to.

“People tell me I can’t ever leave my job,” Arviso told HCN. “They say, ‘We’re depending on you.’

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