Navajo-Gallup water delay spurs problem solving in arid Southwest

Early this year, five of Gallup, New Mexico’s 16 water wells stopped producing water, including two of its biggest. After a few days of maintenance, two worked. The other three were out of commission for more than a month. Had it happened in summer, the city might have asked residents to dramatically reduce use. “I’m not in crisis mode,” said Dennis Romero, Water and Sanitation Director for the City of Gallup, but “it could go to crisis mode very quickly.”

The shortage isn’t wholly surprising — 20 years ago, the city decided it could limp along on aging groundwater wells with dropping water levels until a new water project began delivering San Juan River water in late 2024.

Lawmakers continue secret spending

Government transparency is more than good, it’s essential. The dark corners of government make it difficult for the people (as in, all of us) to exercise our right and our duty to ensure those we elect are governing in our best interest. 

In a cash-strapped state like New Mexico, transparency in how elected officials spend public money is even more important. For that reason, we applaud the publication of a list of how individual lawmakers spent public infrastructure funds under their control. Lawmakers have long resisted making that information public, but finally relented this year after sustained public pressure. We’ll be able to see the so-called capital outlay spending of individual lawmakers from now on.

New Mexico Black leaders challenge tricultural myth

In popular mythology, New Mexico is a “tricultural” state–– one where Hispanic, Anglo, and Native American communities live in relative harmony, an exemplar for the rest of the nation. But the persistent myth leaves out other groups with long histories in the state, appearing in state-produced documents as recently as 2019. Then, there were contentious remarks at a very public forum this February that led Black leaders to call for a formal statement from the Legislature denouncing the remarks. At a legislative hearing to confirm Veteran’s Service Secretary-designate Sonya Smith, a Black woman, Sen. Greg Baca, R-Belen, noted that 2.6% of New Mexico’s population is African American. He then asked Smith if she felt “comfortable adequately representing… cultures of white, Native, Hispanics.” 

Black community leaders issued a statement characterizing Baca’s words as racist and calling on legislative leaders to issue a formal denouncement.

State lawmakers boost efforts to expand broadband

At the beginning of the pandemic, 80% of students in the Cuba Independent School District couldn’t connect online from home. Almost a year later, the problem is considerably smaller, said Tim Chavez, the district’s Technology Director. Because cell phone providers are the best way for people in the area to connect to the internet, Chavez said, the district equipped most students with a device to boost their signal for high speed internet and bought a subscription to satellite internet for the few homes out of cell phone range. 

Still, there are “dead zones” that make remote learning a challenge for a few students.Those obstacles could disappear soon. 

Lawmakers allocated $133 million dollars to broadband during this year’s legislative session, an infusion of money they say will help unlock federal dollars to close New Mexico’s yawning digital divide.  

This week the Biden administration estimated more New Mexicans live in areas without broadband infrastructure or where there’s only one such internet provider than residents in most surrounding states. For a large slice of the public, and most students in New Mexico, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed a large chunk of life into a digital space. School instruction went online.

A century of federal indifference left generations of Navajo homes without running water

When Julie Badonie was growing up in the small Navajo community of Tohatchi in the 1940s, her father drove a horse-drawn wagon early each morning to a nearby spring. There, he filled wooden barrels with water the family would use that day to drink, cook, and wash. 

Badonie, the youngest of seven children, including brothers who fought in World War II and the Korean War, or one of her siblings would go along. She remembers it as fun. At home, a hose siphoned the water into buckets to bring into the house. Badonie left for boarding school in kindergarten, first just a few miles across town, then several days’ travel away in Crownpoint, where an older sister worked as a cook, and eventually, all the way to Albuquerque for high school.

As water reaches eastern Navajo communities, it brings possibilities and homecomings

For a while, Chee Smith Jr. thought he was going to have to send his father to die among strangers. His family lives at Whitehorse Lake, a Navajo chapter where, until a few years ago, roughly 550 of 700 residents had no running water in their homes, including Smith’s. As Smith’s father aged and his health worsened, it became harder and harder for him to live at home. “We had to haul water from the chapterhouse or the watering points every day for just basic things — for cooking, for laundry, for stuff like that, and also for our livestock,” Smith said. “It takes a big toll.

I Received Tips to Look Into How a New Mexico Hospital Treated Premature Babies. Getting Data Was Nearly Impossible.

This article is copublished with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. New Mexico In Depth is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. It’s not unusual for health care reporters to get out-of-the-blue calls or emails from people in the industry. But when three clinicians from Albuquerque hospitals reached out to me to share concerns about the state’s largest for-profit maternity hospital, Lovelace Women’s, I took note. Two of the tipsters worked at Lovelace. None knew the others had contacted me, but all three had concerns about how Lovelace cared for its most premature babies. 

These delicate preemies are frequently born weighing less than 2 pounds.

Los dos hospitales tienen tasas de mortalidad infantil similares, hasta que se observa a los bebés extremadamente prematuros

Read in English. Nota: Este reportaje contiene la descripción de la muerte de un recién nacido. ProPublica es un medio independiente y sin ánimo de lucro que produce periodismo de investigación en pro del interés público. Suscríbete para recibir sus historias en español por correo electrónico. New Mexico In Depth es miembro de ProPublica Local Reporting Network. Era el cambio de turno de la mañana en el Hospital de Mujeres Lovelace de Albuquerque, Nuevo México.