Water for the Navajo Nation

Welcome to Water and Electricity for the Navajo Nation

Our goal is to provide a sustainably powered water pipe and pumping system for single homes in the Navajo nation. We are a group of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo students who have a passion for sustainable development and helping the world’s people. Throughout this process, we will be working closely with the non-profit organization, Dig Deep.

Problem Statement

There are approximately 174,000 people living in the Navajo Nation and 44% of these people do not have running water. Additionally, many of them do not have electricity either. That is why the goal of our group is to design a cost effective system that is powered by solar energy to provide running hot and cold water, LED lights, and charging ports.


-1200 gallon cistern per month per household
-The amount of sun the solar panel could receive a day
-The flow rate out of the sink
-The location of items already installed in the homes
-Structural integrity of the homes


The Navajo Nation is a Native American territory that covers 27,425 square miles and spans three states (Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah). They are considered a sovereign nation with their own government. As of 2010 the Navajo Nation population numbered roughly 174,000 people, and 40% of those families living without running water. The poverty rate for children is around 44%, and with the great lack of one of life’s basic necessities there is a cycle of poverty that poses many threats to the future of these children. While there is an increased level of poverty, the day-to-day life of the nation’s people is not immensely different than that of the average American. As the largest reservation in the United States, the Navajo Nation and its people are incredibly diverse. The specific area that we are working with is near Smith Lake in New Mexico.
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Preliminary research is being conducted regarding using a commercially available electric water heater that can be used to provide a Navajo home with heated running water. The water heater, powered by solar panels, will heat water to 140°F according to OSHA recommendations. The water will be mixed with cold water to achieve temperatures between 60°F and 140°F. Based on on NREL solar radiation data for the Navajo Nation, the amount of solar power needed is 580W to heat 10 gallons of water in the worst conditions for solar power generation. With only 40 gallons per day to use, half of that can be delivered at 100°F, an ideal temperature for bathing. With a pump and water heater, these homes can have their first access to heated running water.

Design Matrix for the Water Heater

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The industrial electric heater can be bought. This would be your typical electric tank water heater.
The homemade electric heater would be made in shop and composed of a tank, insulation, a thermometer, and a heating element.
The flat plate collector uses thermal energy from the sun and dark pipes to heat up the water.

Progress Made in Shop

So far, we have not made any progress in the workshop as we have been working on our design. However, we have decided the type of prototype that we will make. We plan to use the solar panels at the Student Experimental Farm as our power source and build a simple, cost effective water heater. The homemade water heater will consist of a tank, insulation, heating element, and a thermostat.

The Team

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(left to right)
Armando Ruiz – Philosophy and Biotechnology Student armruiz45@calpoly.edu
Anna Laird – General Engineering Student aclaird@calpoly.edu
Emily Miller – Environmental Engineering Student enmiller@calpoly.edu
Kelly McGartland – Environmental Engineering Student knmcgart@calpoly.edu
Jessica Talbot – Civil Engineering Student jptalbot@calpoly.edu
Tyler Dery – Environmental Engineering Student tdery@calpoly.edu