EWB – Shonto Irrigation
The mission of the Shonto Irrigation Project is to enable the Shonto community, a small community within the Navajo Nation located in northeastern Arizona, to resume traditional practices of sustainable agriculture. Prior to the 1970s, much of the land within the Shonto Canyon could be farmed without irrigation using a technique called dryland farming. This practice was possible due to the high water table within the area. In the late 1960s, a dam failure initiated severe erosion throughout the creek that bisects the Shonto Canyon. This erosion lowered the canyon’s water table, making dryland farming no longer feasible. Only a handful of families currently farm within the Shonto Canyon, and in limited capacity. Several members of the Shonto Community who own land within the Canyon have expressed their desire to return to traditional farming techniques to the Project’s primary community partners, Felix Fuller and Roland Smallcanyon. The objective of the Shonto Irrigation Project is to restore the water table of the Shonto Canyon to its historical level so dryland farming becomes feasible again.
In order to restore the water table, the Shonto Irrigation Project has proposed implementing a series of check dams throughout the creek. These check dams will decelerate water flow, allowing sediment to accumulate upstream of the check dams. This accumulation of sediment will increase the average elevation of the creek bed and the water level of the creek. By doing this, Shonto can convert the creek from a ‘gaining stream,’ in which groundwater flows into the stream, into a losing stream, which recharges the surrounding groundwater. This conversion will allow for the restoration of the groundwater level in the Shonto Canyon, saturating accessible soil and replenishing the local water supply.