Waving flags of Navajo American Indians. Flag of the Navajo Nation in US. 3D rendering

The International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation (IWSH) announced it has launched the Wash Station Challenge 2021, a new collaboration with the DigDeep Navajo Water Project, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA), and Ferguson to help bring hand hygiene to the Navajo Nation.

The Wash Station Challenge will run through the remainder of the month. Assembly projects will be hosted at 10 participating UA locals nationwide, where a series of mobile wash station facilities will be built that have been designed to provide a month's worth of non-potable water for daily hand-washing and general hygiene for a family of six. Once completed, the wash stations will be shipped to designated DigDeep staging points on the Navajo Nation. DigDeep teams will then deliver, install and maintain the wash stations at sites that will initially include community health service facilities, chapter houses, and farms.

"These new hand-washing stations are going to provide further hygiene capacity for Navajo people and community sites that are currently without, and help further protect general public health and safety in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic," said IWSH Managing Director Seán Kearney.

COVID-19 has hit the Navajo Nation particularly hard, registering some of the highest infection rates in the United States. Lack of running water has been a major factor, limiting residents' ability to wash their hands regularly to prevent the virus from spreading.

"The addition of these outdoor hand-washing stations in densely populated community centers is timely and necessary," said George McGraw, DigDeep founder and CEO. "Hand-washing is still a critical step in sanitation and stopping the spread of the virus."

Two wash station models have been developed — a grid-powered version that uses a 120-volt trough-type heater that sits inside a 210-gallon water tank, and an off-grid version that incorporates a 12-volt circulating pump and a timer. The pump is set on a timer to circulate the water and keep it from freezing, which is vital for wash stations that must perform through winter conditions in the most remote and exposed parts of the reservation. IWSH partner and sponsor Ferguson is  donating materials for the assembly project, making them available for the 10 participating UA locals at Ferguson branches across the country.

"Our UA locals are proud to utilize our trained men and women to assist the Navajo Nation with this critical need," said UA Assistant Director of Education and Training Raymond Boyd. "These wash stations are going to have an immediate impact, providing non-potable water for hygiene, which will ultimately cut down on the spread of disease and virus."