Emerging Initiatives

We continually challenge ourselves to expand our understanding of the issues our clients encounter.

Based on issues identified as a result of our data collection and analysis work, ongoing communication with clients and partners, and observed programmatic, funding or social changes, Big Water expands the breadth and depth of its work to embrace new issues and topics. The following is an illustrative list of a few topics shaping our current work.  



Big Water works with Indian tribes and Native service providers to ensure that the homeless members of their communities are counted, including individuals who are “couch surfing” and would not fall within administrative definitions of “homeless,” by providing training to facilitate tribal Point-in-Time (PIT) counts and “doubled-up” counts and utilizing the data collected by tribal programs and service providers to advocate for appropriate changes in the methodology and definitions applied to locate and count this vulnerable sub-population.



The challenges facing tribal youth vary tremendously among tribal communities and are often very different from those faced by adults. Big Water collaborates with tribes to develop tailored surveys of tribal youth to reveal their unique concerns, aspirations, and perceptions of support, as well as their perspectives on individual, family/household and community needs. This valuable information can empower youth, inform tribal leadership and tribal program staff, and serve as a launching point for specific new initiatives to engage, organize and support tribal youth in addressing community issues.


Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience

American Indian and Alaska Native tribes can face disproportionate risks in the face of a changing climate. Big Water helps tribes meaningfully engage stakeholders, conduct risk and vulnerability assessments, develop climate adaptation plans, and take concrete steps to increase tribal climate resilience. Opportunities for partnerships that support adaptation and resilience efforts include the Climate Ready Tribes (CRT) Initiative funded through the National Indian Health Board, the Tribal Resilience Program supported by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Environmental Justice Small Grants available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


Food Security and Sovereignty

A healthy, sustainable food system is a critical element in building food security and improving community health and nutrition. It also presents opportunities for economic revitalization. Big Water helps tribes conduct community food assessments and strategic planning to restore traditional food systems and make strides towards food sovereignty. Big Water can work with tribes through a number of US Department of Agriculture programs, including Community Food Projects, Local Food Promotion Program, and other programs targeting land-grant institutions and extensions.


Meth in tribal Housing

Housing authorities in many Native communities are struggling to deal with problems associated with increasing methamphetamine (meth) use. Working with tribal housing practitioners, Big Water designed a survey to collect information from members of the United Native American Housing Association (UNAHA) in order to quantify the costs and identify additional challenges associated with meth testing and remediation of housing units owned by tribal housing authorities.



As tribes, tribal housing programs, CDFIs and other organizations work to raise historically low homeownership rates in Indian Country, Big Water is partnering with Nancy Pindus of the Urban Institute, the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition (SDNHC), Enterprise Community Partners and others to gather data that assess tribal member interest and qualification for homeownership and directly support homebuyer readiness and credit repair programs and to conduct studies that address the layered barriers to homeownership and the impacts of residential instability in many tribal communities.

opportunity zones


Opportunity Zones were created by Congress in 2017 as a community investment tool to spur investment in low-income rural and urban communities. In an effort to allow tribes and investors to fully realize the potential of Opportunity Zone designation in and adjacent to tribal areas, Big Water is designing data collection and analysis efforts that will answer investor questions and address investor concerns regarding the potential of their investments in Indian Country, while informing tribal leaders and programs about the independent economic development potential of their lands and communities.