Watchlist: ‘The Navajo Water Lady’

09.14.2022 Kamiah Koch Watchlist
Navajo member Darlene Arviso, known as the “Water Lady” in the Navajo Nation, stands in Nina Garcia’s home on the Reservation. Garcia, who has never had running water in her life, is one of Arviso’s 250 customers that she delivers monthly water to with her water-tank truck. (Smoke Signals screenshot)


By Kamiah Koch

Social media/digital journalist

In 2015, CBS Sunday Morning featured Navajo member Darlene Arviso, known on the Navajo Reservation as the “Water Lady.”

CBS reported an estimated 40 percent of those living on the Reservation at the time did not have access to running water.

Journalist Lee Cowan asked Navajo Reservation resident Loretta Smith what she used her sink for.

“We don’t use the sink because there is no running water,” Smith said.

The sink is instead filled with buckets where water is shown being hand-poured.

The water residents do get is either accessed by driving miles through New Mexico or waiting for the giant yellow water-tank truck driven by the Water Lady.

“I am proud of what I am doing for my people and I love my job,” Arviso said. “I go out every day to meet different families.”

Although she goes to different houses on the Reservation daily, she can only get to one house at a time, meaning she will make it to a family’s home only once a month. But her arrival is received as a celebration.

The water from the Water Lady’s tank is poured into any vessel family members can get their hands on.

“Sometimes I wish I could do more,” Arviso said. “They just have to stretch out their water.”

CBS followed Arviso to some of the 250 families she delivers to.

You can watch the video for yourself to see how they use their limited water, an explanation for why the water resources are so limited and what government and organizations are doing about it.

You can find the “The Navajo Water Lady” video at or find it linked in the Smoke Signals “Watchlist” Playlist on our YouTube channel.