Newsletter #39 for April 2017
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The Alaska Water + Sewer Challenge

Building or upgrading water and wastewater treatment systems on tribal lands can be costly or simply not practical. This is why onsite/decentralized treatment systems can provide viable, long-term alternatives for tribes. Yet such systems can be difficult to maintain properly and sometimes do not do a good job of addressing the unique needs of a community.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, along with with tribal, state and federal agencies, is leading a research and development effort called The Alaska Water + Sewer Challenge to respond to these challenges and develop onsite systems that are more user-friendly, responsive and affordable. The outcomes of this challenge are of interest to all - even those in the lower 48 - who have an interest in improving public health and water quality on tribal lands.

In 2013/14, eighteen teams began the Challenge. Six of these teams were then selected to develop proposals addressing RFP targets relating to constructability, health benefits, affordability, and more. Of those six teams, three were chosen to build and test a pilot system. These three systems were recently showcased at the 2016 Water Innovations for Healthy Arctic Homes Conference in Anchorage.

One team, DOWL, is working with partner communities to gather feedback on a system which uses a stand-alone ceramic filtration system in 5-gallon buckets to treat locally-sourced drinking/cooking water. They have also developed a water recycling system that can be positioned in a vestibule to provide water for various non-potable household uses. Click here to learn more.

Another team, Summit Consulting Services, is working with partner communities in the Yukon-Kuskokwim and Northwest Arctic regions to develop a rainwater treatment system while removing waste products via innovations such as Urine Diverting Dry Toilets (UDDTs). Check out their project's progress here.

Finally, The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the Cold Climate Housing Research Center have partnered to design a low-cost sanitation alternative for communities that are affected by climate change. Their PASS system is entirely portable - a bonus for communities that may need to relocate away from the eroding coastline. Click here to find out more.

The final results of these three pilot systems will be evaluated this summer. The next phase, expected to begin early next year (2018), will focus on field system development.

Engineers Without Borders, AWWA & ASCE Partner to Meet Tribal Water Infrastructure Needs

Community Engineering Corps (CECorps) is a new alliance between three premier engineering organizations: The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA). The Community Engineering Corps (CEC) works with communities in the United States that do not have the finances to hire engineers, providing engineering design and related technical services for infrastructure-related projects. This new alliance is now helping the Native American community in Black Mesa, Arizona improve its water storage system, among other new initiatives. Any community that needs engineering assistance but cannot afford to retain those services can ask the CECorps for assistance.

Click here to find out more.

Events for Tribal Water Systems

Tribal Basic Operator Math
Tuesday, April 18 | Summerset, South Dakota
Hosted by USEPA/MAP

This training will include: Rounding, Conversions, Fractions, How to Set Up a Problem, Calculating for area, volume, perimeter and circumference, Horse Power, Flow Rate, Solution Percentages. Training is FREE for tribal operators who are certified or wish to become certified. | Click here for more information.

Wastewater Treatment - Level 1
Monday, May 1 - Friday, May 5 | Ukiah, California
Hosted by Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc.

Subjects covered in this training course will include: an overview of activated sludge wastewater treatment with review of lagoon processes; activated sludge components; pumps and motors; disinfection; operational tests for process control using laboratory sampling and testing; process control using observations and appearances of treated wastewater sludge at various points of the activated sludge process; wastewater treatment mathematics; and worker safety. | Click here for more information.

Qualified Water Sampler Training
Wednesday, May 3 - Friday, May 5 | Dillingham, Alaska
Zender Environmental and Health Research Group

You will learn how to take your own water and soil samples to send for laboratory contaminant testing, how to test on-site for surface water fecal coliform, and how to sample and monitor for the basic water quality parameters using a YSI probe and turbidity meter. Passing this course satisfies the State of Alaska training requirements to become a qualified sampler. | Click here for more information.

NAWMA Navajo Chapter Training - Operator Certification Test Preparation
Wednesday, May 10 | Chinle, Arizona
Hosted by RCAC/USDA 

This Tribal training's topics include: The NAWMA Overview for Tribal Operators, Math for the Operator – Math Test Review, Operator Certification Test Taking Tips – Strategy for Passing the Test, Operator Round Table – Group Discussion, Health and Safety Review – Passing the Test. | Click here for more information.
Want to find additional training opportunities for operators,
including events in your area?
Search the Training Calendar

Featured Resources

Managing Wastewater for Native Americans
Indian Health Service

This 26-slide presentation discusses wastewater treatment in tribal settings, with an emphasis on on-site (septic) system siting and troubleshooting. It begins with an overview of public sewers vs. septic and the advantages and considerations of both. From there, it goes on to discuss the preliminary steps for installing septic systems, including advance interviews and existing siting paperwork; and gives guidelines for troubleshooting problems with an existing septic system. Click here to view.

Onsite Wastewater Management: A Manual For Tribes
New Mexico State University

This manual helps tribes to take steps to ensure that sources of drinking water are clean and adequately protected against contamination, and that wastewater is appropriately managed. Chapter topics include: Historical Perspective of Native American Wastewater Management, Soils and Site Inspection, Septic Systems, Passive Advanced Treatment Systems, Mechanical Systems, Disinfection, and Reuse and Conservation of Wastewater. Click here to view.

Have a different question?
You can find thousands of helpful resources in our database.
Search the Document Database

In the News

Gila River member becomes 1st Native American to have vote on Arizona water board
Rod Lewis, a member of the Gila River Indian Community, will join the Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board. Lewis has spent much of his life fighting for water rights on behalf of tribes in Arizona and across the nation.

Water from mine near Grand Canyon NP concerns tribes and environmental groups
Conservation groups are urging federal regulators to suspend operations at a uranium mine near the Grand Canyon, where millions of gallons of uranium-laced groundwater threaten people and wildlife. The contaminated groundwater — 80 times the limit set to protect public health and the environment — has swamped the Pinenut uranium mine immediately north of Grand Canyon National Park.

Michigan Allots $87 Million to Replace Flint’s Tainted Water Pipes
The State of Michigan has agreed to spend $87 million in a proposed settlement to replace thousands of lead pipes throughout Flint over the next three years, the latest effort by state and city officials to fix the contaminated water system.

Navajo Special-Ed School To Get Clean Water For The First Time
George McGraw, the founder and executive director of Dig Deep, a non-profit with the goal of defending “access to clean water as a basic human right.” will begin a fundraising effort to raise the estimated $100,000 it will take to build a treatment facility for a school serving hundreds of Navajo children with special needs like autism and other severe developmental disabilities.—formerly—is a free, grant-funded service to support small community water and wastewater operators with comprehensive resources and information in one easy-to-use place. We also serve the 800+ training, primacy, and technical service organizations, by helping operators get to their information. We aren't buying, selling, or advertising anything. You can call us at 1-866-522-2681 if you need assistance.

Recently at

Many Organizations Offer Resources for Tribal Utilities
Here you will find a round-up of funding opportunities for tribal projects on infrastructure, local environment, or other utility-related projects.

Featured Video: Community Onsite Options
This 17-minute video discusses the opportunities offered by community onsite management systems. These systems combine the effluent from individual septic tanks into a community-wide leachfield, and often involve mandating activities such as basic maintenance and monitoring.

Featured Video: Coliform Sampling Best Practices
This video from our partners at the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) walks you through the 13 steps of total coliform sampling, and discusses how to find a good sampling site.
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