The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced $19.5 million in funding to invest in Arizona tribes for environmental programs, water infrastructure development, community education and capacity building.  The announcement was made at the 22nd Annual Regional Tribal Conference in Sacramento, Calif.

“The federal government is committed to protecting human health and the environment in Indian Country,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This funding will help conserve precious water resources, create jobs, and improve the quality of life on tribal lands.”

This year, Arizona tribes will use $16.8 million for a wide variety of water quality projects including watershed protection and restoration, water and energy efficiency, wastewater reclamation, and treatment systems.  The funds also support drinking water infrastructure, plant operator training, and technical assistance.

This year Ariz. tribes will an additional $2.7 million to continue tribal environmental programs, cleanup open dumps, conduct small construction projects, targeted community outreach, and community education – the cornerstone of tribal environmental programs.

For example, this year, the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona will develop a community education video on appropriate solid waste management and the Gila River Indian Community will clean up five illegal dumpsites on tribal lands, as well as to install educational and deterrent signage at areas frequently abused by dumpers.

These funds are critical in building the capacity of tribes to carry out environmental work.  Because most tribes in the Pacific Southwest have small governments, one goal of the funding is to assist tribes in developing their ability to establish environmental protection programs and make informed decisions about issues that impact the health of their people and the quality of their environment.  The funds are used to develop environmental and public health ordinances, and coordinate with adjacent jurisdictions.

The EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region is home to 148 tribal nations with half of Indian Country nationwide concentrated in three states; Indian Country in California, Arizona and Nevada is about equal to area of the six New England states combined.