Navajo Nation employees work to fix water lines that were broken during a recent freeze
Navajo Nation employees work to fix water lines that were broken during a recent freeze (Navajo Tribal Utility Authority)
FARMINGTON — About two-thirds of the people who lost water in homes on the Navajo Nation last month now have it back. 
More than 1,000 homes still are without water after sub-zero temperatures froze and cracked water lines. While early reports estimated that about 2,000 lines sustained damage, the number is now more than 3,300. 
“The new notices are tapering off,” said Rex Kontz, deputy general manager of the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. 
The utility has been responding to the reports since early January, before Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly declared a state of emergency. 
Laundromats, restaurants, and hair salons closed temporarily because they had no water, or because the water pressure was too low. Hospitals came close to closing as well. 
“Things are getting ok,” said Kontz. 
Crews from the Salt River Project and the Navajo Engineering and Construction Authority have helped the utility, which has been working closely with the Navajo Nation Department of Emergency Management. 
The estimated cost of the repairs is expected to be about $2.8 million, which Shelly is seeking in emergency funding from the federal government. 
Ideally, Navajo officials want to replace the entire pipeline system. Many of the pipelines are more than a half-century old and are made of concrete or clay. 
Replacing the system, which has about 37,000 lines, would cost about $900 million, Kontz said. While only ballpark figures, he knows that the tribe does not have the funding to completely replace the old system. 
“It would take more than a decade to replace all of that,” Kontz said. 
The utility expects to have all lines repaired  by the end of the month.