HURRICANE, Utah (ABC4) - The Department of Interior is dispersing $1.7 billion to fulfill water rights settlements with 12 Native American groups in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Montana, but some leaders say the money is long overdue and may not be enough.

Water and electricity are something many people can take for granted but it's something that's hard to come by within Navajo Nation's boundaries.

“Some of these water wells that a lot of farmers collect water from are contaminated with a lot of heavy metals such as solanum, uranium, and on and on and on,” says Woody Lee, the Executive Director for Utah Diné Bikéyah Non-Profit.

Lee works to protect Bear's Ears National Monument by collaborating with five other native tribes. He says $1.7 billion is long overdue and may not be enough.

He says their non-profit had to apply for several grants over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, to help the community get access to basic essentials, like water.

“We have served almost 800, 275-gallon water tanks to a lot of these folks that live in remote areas,” he says.

Navajo Nation President, Jonathan Nez says funds will go toward updating and expanding infrastructure, including roads, electricity, and water across the nation.

“The Navajo Utah portion of the state received 210 million dollars and that is to expand the water infrastructure in the Navajo Utah area,” he says.

President Nez says the building is expected to start as soon as the weather warms up this year, thanking the Biden-Harris administration for keeping their promises to help tribal nations, with help from Secretary Deb Haaland.

“Because of that, we are catching up to the rest of the United States in terms of infrastructure, community, and economic development,” says Nez.

But Lee says there's still a lot of work to be done, asking for continued support from local leaders.

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