Water crisis in Warm Springs gains support from coalition of conservation groups
The Chúush fund, founded in partnership by MRG Foundation and The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, raises funds to deploy immediate and long-term resources to improve water access and infrastructure for Oregon’s largest Tribal community.
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Dena L. Zaldúa, Development Director, MRG Foundation: 503-289-1517, x2 (office), firstname.lastname@example.org
(Portland, Oregon)—A coalition of eight conservation organizations have joined in a new partnership with The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation of Oregon, MRG Foundation, and Warm Springs Action Team to mobilize immediate and long-term action to remediate the growing water emergency. The Chúush: Water for Warm Springs Campaign accepts contributions—via The Chúush Fund, administrated by the MRG Foundation—that will directly assist the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in restoring access to and infrastructure for clean water.
The communities of Warm Springs are now in the second year of a devastating water emergency due to a series of pressure breaks in key community water lines. Over 60% of Warm Springs residents do not have regular, consistent access to clean water for personal or domestic use. The crumbling water infrastructure is a public health crisis, exacerbated by climate change and the ongoing global health crisis—both disproportionately affecting Native communities. Conservation groups’ efforts to leverage widespread community support for The Chúush Fund is an extension of the land and water stewardship that the Warm Springs Tribe has modeled since existence.
"In a first-of- its-kind partnership of its kind between a foundation and a Tribal Nation, MRG is honored to be the steward of the funds raised from generous folks across the country to help repair and restore the water infrastructure at the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Indian Reservation of Oregon," said MRG Foundation Executive Director Se-ah-dom Edmo, Shoshone-Bannock, Nez Perce, and Yakama.
"It would be a disservice if I didn't mention the racialized nature of this issue," Edmo added. "I can't help but think if there were 3,200 white folks in Bend, Oregon without water it would be fixed in a week, and here we are well into year two. I can't think of a good logical reason why other than the same reason we were ok with regarding what is also still happening in Flint, Michigan. Access to clean water is a human right," Edmo stressed.
In July 2019, the Oregon legislature earmarked $7.8 million in Oregon Lottery funds for water infrastructure repairs on the reservation. But due to a sharp decline in gambling revenues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials reduced support. In July, 2020, Oregon’s emergency board unanimously approved $3.58 million from state reserves to start addressing the water crisis. The fund, must be spent by the end of 2020, offering just a fraction of repairs needed, estimated near $200 million.
"The water crisis prompts not only health concerns among Warm Springs community members, but creates a deep-seated anxiety about the viability of building a life on the reservation. Would you buy or construct a new home in a place where you had to boil your water before you drank it? Would you start a business in a place without a safe, reliable water system?" asked Chris Watson, executive director for the Warm Springs Community Action Team -- a non-profit community development organization located on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.
"Warm Springs community members have to think about these kinds of things when deciding on their futures. Until this problem is solved, they'll continue to live with these concerns, and to feel uncertain and anxious about the future of their community," Watson added.
Launched this October after a series of early fall partner conversations, the Chúush: Water for Warm Spring Campaign’s goals are two-fold: strengthen available financial resources to meet immediate, emergency health needs and advocate for policy solutions needed to help the people of Warm Springs restore their access and infrastructure for clean water.
"Safe drinking water is a basic human right that all who live in the Pacific Northwest should equally have. Yet today fresh, clean water for the people of Warm Springs is not a given, it is not even a reality," said Friends of the Columbia Gorge Executive Director Kevin Gorman. "This new campaign presents the conservation community a tremendous opportunity to pull together and help the people of Warm Springs restore their access to and infrastructure for clean water," Gorman added.
To date The Chúush Fund has raised roughly $500,000 in response to ongoing community water needs. The fund was approved by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Tribal Council by resolution and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Tribe and MRG Foundation. The MRG Foundation transfers the total amount in the fund to the Tribe each month.
October 27: Chúush Fund webinar
On Tuesday, Oct. 27 (1-2 p.m. Pacific), the MRG Foundation, in cooperation with campaign partners, will host a special, free Zoom webinar on The Chúush Fund and efforts to help the people of Warm Springs as they work to restore their access to and infrastructure for clean water.
Note: This webinar is free and open to the public and members of the press. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Chúush: Water for Warm Springs Campaign - participating organizations
- Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs
- MRG Foundation
- Warm Springs Community Action Team
- Blue Mountain Land Trust
- Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts
- Columbia Land Trust
- Columbia Riverkeeper
- Deschutes Land Trust
- Friends of the Columbia Gorge
- The Nature Conservancy of Oregon
- Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
Additional background & information
- Chúush: Water for Warm Springs Campaign Partner Letter: https://assets.gorgefriends.org/friends/PDFs/Chuush-Partner-Letter-Oct-2020-Launch.pdf
- More on The Chúush Fund: https://www.mrgfoundation.org/the-chuush-fund-water-for-warm-springs
- The Chúush Fund Video: http://bit.ly/Chuush-Video
- More about the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs: https://warmsprings-nsn.gov
- UN: Water as a Human Right: https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/human-rights/
Friends of the Columbia Gorge is a conservation organization with over 7,000 members dedicated to protecting, preserving, and stewarding the Columbia Gorge for future generations. Friends maintains an office in Portland, Oregon, as well as in two Gorge towns—Hood River, Oregon, and Washougal, Washington. Learn more: gorgefriends.org or follow us: @GorgeFriends