Water is Life Curriculum

From ceremony to subsistence, hydration to recreation, water is part of our tradition. The Water is Life community art project is an education and outreach project that supports community-based efforts to improve sustainable access to safe water. The project draws from the strengths and rich cultural ties to water that Tribal communities hold by engaging community members in a conversation on water through art, education, cultural sharing and celebration.

The Water is Life project was born out of reverence for art, water, community, and culture. Central to the project is the creation of a large-scale mural representing local water culture. Community members collaborate with a professional Native muralist to come up with a vision for a meaningful design. The mural can be a conversation starter, honoring traditional ties to water and serving as a source of pride and reflection.

The Water is Life project guide provides communities the opportunities to tailor the project to their own specific goals.

Water is Life was originally developed with the following objectives in mind:

  • Facilitate sharing of knowledge and behavior that optimizes the health benefits of clean water use
  • Improve the sustainability of local water infrastructure
  • Share and preserve local water cultural knowledge

Participating communities have experienced positive results in their relationship to water use and access, and their cultural or traditional ties to water. These were some of the outcomes:

  • A failing water treatment plant led one community to take action and revamp its treatment process to bring drinking water back into regulatory compliance. The community carried out the Water is Life project in order to reshape local perception toward the utility and increase confidence in the improved treated water.
  • A significant portion of customers failing to pay their water and sewer bill left utilities in two communities in debt and unable to properly fund system maintenance and upgrades. The utilities applied the Water is Life project to promote transparency of utility finances and engage their customers in finding solutions to this issue.
  • A tribal utility’s desire to inform community members about their diverse water sources and how to protect them, and the preservation of their community’s cultural and traditional knowledge of water.