Native American Water Association celebrates 25 years with conference in Sparks |

Native American Water Association celebrates 25 years with conference in Sparks

By Jarrette Werk | First Nation's Focus
Thomas Crawford has dedicated 38 years of his life to the conservation and improvement of water resources.
Photo: Jarrette Werk

Editor's note: 

This story was first published in the August 2017 edition of First Nation’s Focus.

SPARKS, Nev. — The Native American Water Association celebrates its 25th year of existence this year, highlighted by its 22nd annual conference and trade show, which took place at the Nugget Casino Resort July 18-20 in Sparks, Nevada.

“This conference is about water and wastewater technologies,” said Thomas Crawford, President and CEO of NAWA. “We are here to address some of the concerns and problems tribal nations are experiencing with their waters.”

Crawford has dedicated 38 years of his life to the water and wastewater industry; 25 years ago, he founded NAWA to help tribes throughout North America.

“Creating resources that tribes can draw from and participate in to keep people in our communities healthy was the ultimate goal,” Crawford told First Nation’s Focus. “This conference offers good and valuable resources for tribes to have and be apart of.”

NAWA is a national nonprofit, 501(c)6 organization founded “to provide Tribal water and wastewater leaders with continued training and technical assistance in their goals to strengthen tribal sovereignty, self-determination, and to protect the health and environment in Indian Country,” according to its website.

Among other things, the association provides tribal water and wastewater training and technical assistance programs; tribal water and wastewater operator certification programs; on-site training; utility ordinance development; and other training and technical assistance opportunities.

“Conferences like this one give a good insight as to what everyone else is doing in their communities,” said Crawford. “It gives you a chance to look at how they are running their programs and what is and what isn’t working for them and how to model our programs after their successes.”

Vendors from across the country attended the conference in July to share and discuss resources their companies offer to help the tribals nations to achieve and sustain clean reliable water.

There has to be a developed infrastructure of both drinking water and wastewater in order to be a successful resource, Crawford said.

It has to be consistent and quantified in order to grow. Therefore, public education is important in showing why it is vital to pay for water and wastewater.

The educational resources that can be implemented by the tribes to teach the operators and managers, in addition to keeping them updated on system requirements, is important.

Having conferences like the annual one through Native American Water Association brings to light to these important topics that people don’t often think about.

“Saying ‘water is life’ is a fact,” said Crawford. “Having clean and reliable water resources is vital to keeping the people in your community healthy.”

Jarrette Werk (Aaniiih) is a journalism student at the University of Nevada, Reno, who worked this summer for the Sierra Nevada Media Group as an intern, writing and taking photos for First Nation’s Focus.


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