SUPERIOR — Water is a scarce resource in Arizona, but the White Mountain Apache community will soon be able to make use of new technology to pull it from the air.
In partnership with Resolution Copper and consultant Stantec, the community will be installing 64 hydropanels on the Fort Apache Reservation, northeast of Tonto National Forest.
Once installed, the hydropanels are expected to provide up to 10 liters of water a day at no cost to users. The panels use solar energy to draw water vapor out of the atmosphere. The water is collected and mineralized inside the panel.
“Water is valuable, it’s the life force of humanity,” said White Mountain Apache Tribe District II Councilman Jerold Altaha. “We are grateful for these opportunities which will continue to make a difference in everyday life for our people and community.”
According to Altaha, the Carrizo community has had issues with high levels of manganese in water wells, making people more dependent on potable water tanks.
“Water is a fundamental resource and many of our neighboring tribes do not have reliable access to safe drinking water,” said Resolution Copper Project Director Andrew Lye. “Projects like the hydropanel deployment will help alleviate some of the burden.”
Despite the recent commitment, Resolution Copper’s proposed mine near Superior has come under fire from conservationists and tribal leaders for its projected water use. A recent study sponsored by the San Carlos Apache Tribe said the mine would use 250 billion gallons of water during its lifespan, drawing water from desert well sites and moving it into a toxic tailings pond, where it could not be reused.
The White Mountain Apache Tribe is part of the nine-tribe Apache Alliance, a group that has supported the San Carlos Apaches’ attempts to block a land exchange for the company from going forward, as the eventual mine would turn the sacred religious site at Oak Flat into a 1,000-foot-deep crater.
A bill to prevent the land exchange was originally part of the reconciliation package currently being weighed in Congress and is the subject of a lawsuit, Apache Stronghold v. United States, which is currently being decided by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.