Drone Imagery for Water Story in The Colorado Sun
I used my drone to capture imagery for a story about a Navajo community in southeast Utah that has tried for more than 20 years to bring clean running water to its residents.

As part of my work at The Water Desk, I used my drone to capture aerial images and videos for a story in The Colorado Sun about a Navajo community in southeast Utah that has tried for more than 20 years to bring clean, running water to its residents.

I worked with journalist Shannon Mullane to plan the shoot, including submitting a formal application to the Navajo Nation for flight approval.

From Shannon’s excellent, in-depth story:

The connections are close in Westwater, a subdivision with 29 plots, 21 houses and 120 acres of desert scrubland outside the Navajo Nation reservation in San Juan County, Utah. From their backyards, residents can see homes in the city of Blanding — with green, irrigated landscaping or lit up against the night sky — across a narrow ravine less than 1 mile away.

Since 2001, the Navajo Nation has tried different approaches to bring running water to Westwater and quickly realized that electricity needed to come first. But the utility efforts ran into barrier after barrier — a lack of buy-in, insufficient funding, jurisdictional challenges. Nearly to the last minute, some residents doubted the projects would happen. Politicians came, made promises and never fulfilled them, they said. 

Ultimately, it took a large, complex network of Indigenous, governmental and religious and community resources to pull off the $752,000 electricity project and secure $10.2 million for a future water project — plus the once-in-a-lifetime windfall of federal funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Below are some images and the video I captured during the visit. If you’d like to see more photos of the area, please check out this gallery.