Entries for the 'Tribal Systems' Category


For those of us outside the arid West, it can be easy to push aside droughts and their impacts as somthing others have to worry about. But a look at the U.S. Drought Monitor quickly reveals that droughts—even long-term ones—are a concern coast-to-coast. In fact, increasing temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns are exposing more and more communities to the risk of droughts and other extreme weather events. 

Incorporating a drought contingency plan into your broader emergency response plan is one of the best ways to ensure your public water system is prepared for water shortages and other drought impacts. And there are a number of resources available to help you do just that.

The templates and guides below can help you design a plan that meets your system and community needs. Whether you use one of these or create your own, keep in mind these seven steps to an effecive drought management plan. These were developed by the Rural Community Assistance Corporation based on the model used by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.  

  1. Seek public involvment by forming a committee of stakholders who encourage and suppor a public "buy-in." 
  2. Define goals and objectives, such as targets for reduced consumption, identifying which customers can and should be restricted and which cannot, legal requirements, minimum flow requirements, etc.  
  3. Assess supply and demand – identify all existing and potential water supply sources and balance these against average and peak demand, historic demand trends, use by customer sector, interior vs. exterior use, and projected future demand. 
  4. Define a system-specific drought index, such as ground and/or  surface water storage, stream flows, soil moisture, rainfall deficit, well drawdown levels, and other indicies. 
  5. Identify potential mitigation measures, such as water audits, alternative supplies, leak detection and repair, public education, restrictions/bans on non-essential use, pricing disincentives (surcharges), and, finally, rationing. 
  6. Assess potential impacts of mitigation measures, such as reduced revenues, customer acceptance, rate equity, legal implications, history, and implementation costs. 
  7. Develop and implement the plan using the management strategies, templates, and statistics assembled during the assessment process. 

If you don't see something that fits your system's needs below, search "drought" in our documents database to find more resources. You can also find information on water conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy for small utilities in Sustainable Infrastructure for Small System Public Services: A Planning and Resource Guide. And be sure to read the Part 1 of this three-part series for help building a comprehensive emergency response plan. 

1. Drought Contingency Plan for a Public Water System (Example): ABC Water Company Drought Contingency Plan
This 11-page document provides an example of how to fill out the model drought contingency plan for retail public water suppliers. 

2. Drought Management Toolkit for Public Water Suppliers
This 49-page handbook was developed by the Utah Division of Water Resources to help public water suppliers better prepare for and manage future droughts. This toolkit consists of two main elements: a model drought mitigation plan and a model drought response plan (or contingency plan, which can also be used to address other water shortages). 

3. Drought Contingency Plan summary – Well Levels Known
This 1-page document, when completed, summarizes an operator's plan for a drought. It is broken down into three stages, depending on how severe the drought is. 

4. Drought Contingency Plan: Public Water System
This 36-page template can be used for a drought contingency plan for a tribal public water system. The template covers a broad list of sections and topics with the aim of being applicable for a majority of the water systems. Because tribal water systems vary, it is recommended that the tribe edit and modify the template to best fit their specific situation and context, and only include those sections that are necessary.


In addition to the operations and management challenges we’ve previously outlined, many tribes face broader issues that can also have an impact on public works. Often, tribes find themselves at an early point in utility development and need to begin assessing the infrastructure they already have in order to plan large-scale expansions or improvements.

Geographic Information System mapping (or GIS mapping) is a common approach to some of these large-scale issues, including surveying tribal lands, mapping existing distribution systems, and planning future infrastructure improvement projects. In addition to these practical considerations, mapping tribal land can often have a spiritual component, since the land often plays an important role in the tribe’s culture and traditions.

Tribal GIS solutions are a common topic at various tribal environmental conferences, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs offers GIS resources for tribes. One additional resource we’ve found is TribalGIS.com.

GIS From a Tribal Perspective
TribalGIS.com is facilitated by the non-profit National Tribal Geographic Information Support Center (NTGISC) with support from Wind Environmental Services, a 100% Native American owned and operated GIS firm. It offers GIS support specifically aimed at tribes, including a collection of videos on a tribal approach to GIS, an annual conference in November, and a community forum. All resources seek to integrate the practical GIS needs of tribal communities with the cultural and spiritual tradition of mapping and describing land. The forum and conference also highlight technical questions and topics regarding use of GIS technology. Other GIS resources available through the site include links to GIS programs at tribal colleges and an interactive map server.

The above resources are freely available on the site (with the exception of the conference, which is conducted in person). With site membership, tribal GIS workers can also participate in an email listserv and receive discounts when registering for the conference.

For tribes facing challenges that can be solved by GIS, TribalGIS.com is a great place to find community and network with other tribal personnel in a similar position. For more on TribalGIS and a basic introduction to GIS in Indian Country, you can watch their eight-minute video
For more on tribal topics, see our calendar and document databases, and search for Category=Tribal.

Posted in: Tribal Systems

A few weeks ago, we talked about the results of our Tribal Utility News subscriber survey. Between this post and the challenges our subscribers told us faced tribal utilities, the tribal utility landscape can sound overwhelming. But while there’s no denying that tribal utilities can face obstacles, the overall picture doesn’t have to be bleak. The good news is that there are a growing number of resources addressing these topics, both for small systems in general and for the specific challenges facing tribes.

Tribal Utility Management Resources
For utility management advice and support from a tribal perspective, check out the Tribal Utility Governance Program manual, developed by RCAC as part of the Tribal Utility Governance trainings offered last year. Though the trainings have been completed, you can check out recordings of the sessions here. From a more general small systems perspective, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) also has a number of downloadable handbooks and guides for board members. We also try to include trainings and resources relevant to tribal managers in our calendar and document database. Tribal utility managers who are already familiar with management topics might want to check out the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona’s Tribal Utility Management Certification.

Training for Tribal Operators
For tribal operators, Native American Water Masters Association (NAWMA) meetings offer training and support on a variety of utility topics, as well as a chance to connect with other tribal operators. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA) also has a federally-recognized tribal operator certification program that offers regular trainings as well as certification exams. The United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) also offer federally-recognized tribal operator certification and an increasing number of trainings through NAWMA and their annual conference. And Navajo operators are often offered free training through the Navajo Nation EPA’s Public Water Systems Supervision Program (their operator certification program is currently still in development).

And of course, searching our calendar for the Tribal category tag or under State for the National Tribal Operator Program will bring up even more trainings for both tribal operators and tribal utility managers, covering topics from grant-writing and GIS to general O&M and drinking water treatment standards.

Help is Out There
But what if you need that extra personal touch to untangle a problem at your utility? Books and trainings are great, but sometimes you need to get your hands dirty right now. Help is available. Our tribal contact manager is designed to help you determine which tribal assistance providers are available in your area.* In addition to federal resources like the Indian Health Service and EPA regional offices, most RCAP regional partners and state based technical assistance providers may be able to assist you. (Some RCAP partners have staff specifically for tribes as well.) Regional tribal associations with utility management and operations resources like those mentioned above generally offer technical assistance as well. To see our full list of Tribal Assistance Providers, go here. Even if you don’t need a hands-on technical assistance provider right now, these can be good phone numbers to track down and have at the ready for life’s little surprises.

More Resources?
Is there a resource that didn’t get mentioned here? Have you found a training resource or an assistance provider particularly useful? Comment and let us know. You can also call or email our staff for help in locating someone locally to provide you with support.

*Please note that due to updates being made in the contact manager right now, USET’s contact information is inaccurate. Lisa Berrios is no longer with USET’s tribal utility team.

Posted in: Tribal Systems

Back when our Tribal Utility News newsletter was just getting started, we surveyed our subscribers on tribal utilities’ biggest challenges and education needs. We’ve discussed the challenges they told us about here; today we’re going to talk about the education needs.

A lot of the topics suggested for emphasis in tribal utilities went hand-in-hand with the challenges we discussed in our previous post. Management support and general operations training topics came up more times than any other category, with water and wastewater treatment topics coming in a distant second.

Need for Management Training in Utility Topics
The management support topics covered the full range from record-keeping, ordinances and enforcement, and asset management; to rate-setting, budgeting, and funding sources. In our previous post on this survey, we mentioned that many respondents felt tribal councils didn’t always fully support the tribe’s utilities. So some of these educational needs could be related to that challenge. However, there has also been increasing awareness that managerial support is a need for many small systems. Operating in a small community can present special challenges. Finding funding can be more difficult, particularly for tribes. And things like enforcing ordinances or collecting past-due fees can be awkward when you know all of your customers personally. However, when the utility managers feel able to tackle these challenges, the whole utility is able to provide better service to the community and a better work environment to its operators.

An Introduction to General Operations
For operators, survey respondents focused on general O&M topics like SCADA, safety, and general mechanical training. Water and wastewater treatment and distribution topics were mentioned, but much less frequently. Many small rural utilities have difficulty keeping trained operators on staff. The isolation and other challenges mentioned in our previous post make this just as true for tribal utilities. This means many utilities have to periodically start from scratch, introducing apprentice operators to the basics of operation and maintenance. On a related note, a few survey respondents mentioned a need for awareness about certification programs for operators. Because clean drinking water and the sanitary disposal of waste are so essential to public health, it benefits communities to have operators who have received the proper training to achieve these goals. Operator certification programs are a way of ensuring that training takes place.

Other Topics?
The good news is that there are a growing number of resources addressing these topics, both for small systems in general and for the specific challenges facing tribes. But first, we want your opinion on these survey results. Are these the training topics you would want at your tribal utility? Are there any topics you would add to the list? Comment and let us know.

Posted in: Tribal Systems

US EPA's pollution prevention (P2) program is reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream. The program's audience crosses sectors, from the public to private, local to national. 

Grant funding from this program established the Tribal P2 Pollution Prevention Network in 2003, based at Montana State University. With more than 250 participants,
network members consist of environmental professionals from tribal entities, local, state and federal agencies, academia, and not-for-profit organizations around the nation.

The purpose of this post is not only to encourage tribes to join the network, but also to highlight the Tribal P2 website as a valuable and easy-to-access resource on a wide range of environmental health topics. For example, the Water: Keep it Clean topic area includes resources, collaborators, funding opportunities, events, and news articles. 

Tribal P2 is conducting a need assessment for 2014, a chance to share the topics that are of concern to you! Click here to participate.


Earlier this year RCAC - along with partners at CRG and ITCA - coordinated a tribal utility management training program. The Tribal Utility Governance (TUG) effort helped to develop new Native American Water Masters Association workgroups around Regions 6, 8, and 9. Each of these regional workgroups hosted a three-part TUG training series.

Whether you attended in-person or not, any tribal utility manager or operator is eligible to receive a Principles of Utility Management for Tribes (PUMT) certificate of completion. The TUG training manual is available for download and each of the three live sessions was recorded. Participants must complete both a pre- and post-test for each of the three modules to receive the certificate. 

Online Training and Testing
Use the links below to take the pre-test, watch the recording, and complete the post-test. Email dpatton@rcac.org when you have completed the testing.

Tribal Utility Management Certification

Additionally, program participants that successfully complete all three TUG training course modules are eligible to apply and test for a newly developed certification. This exam will be made available by ITCA. Learn more about the difference between a certificate and certification.


Posted in: Tribal Systems

Today at AWWA's Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE) our program manager Steve Wilson is delivering a talk about our experience as a communication partner for the Tribal Utility Governance (TUG) program. It's part of a session titled "Managing Small Water Systems: Diverse Perspectives from the Field."

If you were not able to attend or just missed Steve's talk, here are the slides:

Posted in: Tribal Systems

This is a guest post from Angela Hengel, a Rural Development Specialist with RCAC. 

RCAC Regional Environmental Manager Dave Harvey explains an electrical panel.


Small community water systems face a variety of problems and challenges quite unlike anything their larger counterparts must face. With fewer customers to share the costs of running the system, smaller water systems suffer from economy of scale. These utilities often struggle to maintain water quality, water quantity, and system infrastructure. 

Decreased revenue also means that small water systems are often faced with the inability to provide equitable pay to their operators resulting in frequent turnover and a subsequent loss of system knowledge and experience. Adding to that problem, small systems often cannot afford the time and resources required to create adequate standard operating procedures for their system. This issue can have a devastating effect on a utility as new operators have few useful guidance documents to assist them with learning operations, maintenance and repairs. As regulations become more stringent and the associated technologies more complex, the need for well developed, user friendly operating procedures becomes even more apparent. 

The Search for a Solution

RCAC technical assistance providers work with small community systems on a daily basis and are familiar with the challenges they face. Through these relationships, it became clear that the lack of informative and easy to use operations and maintenance (O&M) manuals was a recurring roadblock for small systems striving to become sustainable. RCAC was faced with a question, how to develop an O&M manual that captures system information in a method that is easy to use and understand?

To start, RCAC looked at basic O&M manuals for small treatment plants and drew some conclusions; while they contained system information, they were often bulky, difficult to navigate, and very generic. This was particularly true when it came to manufacturers’ O&M manuals. 

Another aspect that RCAC noted was the tendency for manufacturers’ O&M manuals to be written with either too much engineering language or without any engineering thought at all. As noted by RCAC Rural Development Specialist and professional engineer Leon Schegg, “What we came across were catalog cuts from particular equipment manufacturers but very little information specific to that system,” said Schegg. “Some of the materials handed over were actually sales brochures.” As a result, these manuals were more often than not left by operators to collect dust on a bookshelf.

RCAC realized that a new approach was necessary. There had to be a way to enhance O&M manuals in a manner that is both technically sound and user friendly. For RCAC Regional Environmental Manager Dave Harvey the answer was easy. “I am a do-it-yourselfer kind of person,” said Harvey. “I love to tinker on my bike and my vehicles at home and my go-to place is always YouTube. I would much rather watch a video of how to repair my bike than read a manual. It’s fast, easy and accurate.” And with that, the RCAC video O&M manual was born. 

Making the Manuals

The idea of a video O&M manual was immediately welcomed by small water system managers and operators. With funding from Indian Health Service (IHS), RCAC began development of video O&M manuals for three tribally-owned small treatment plants. 

“Our intent was not to do away with the written manuals but rather to enhance them by integrating them with video demonstrations filmed on site at the treatment plant,” Harvey said. The result; highly individualized O&M manuals that provide not only written information, but detailed yet easy to follow video instructions on plant operations and maintenance. 

RCAC took a holistic approach to creating the manuals. Each individualized O&M manual is created through a collaborative of RCAC technicians, utility operators, IHS engineers, contractors and manufacturer technical representatives. Filmed onsite by RCAC videographers and finished in the RCAC graphic arts department, each manual is a one-of-a-kind visual training tool. With it, small system staff with limited technical skills can learn their system’s requirements and follow step-by-step maintenance procedures using a menu-driven CD containing text, photography, video and the internet. 

There were challenges to be met along the way in the creation of the manuals. “It was kind of like a movie set. We had to get all parties on site and organized and ready to go when it was time to film,” said RCAC’s Eagle Jones. “We had to deal with road noise, lighting, people forgetting their lines and just getting used to the idea of being on camera,” Jones said. “It took a few shoots and we had to go back and re-shoot a few sections, but in the end we produced some really great video.”

Bringing the video and written manual together in a cohesive and organized manner presented its own set of difficulties. “It was important that the manuals were designed in a way that would build the operators’ trust so that they actually use them,” said Schegg. “We inserted flags in the text of the manuals directing the user to a video.” 

One of the issues RCAC had to overcome was that the manuals being provided by equipment manufacturers often contained information that was different than plant operations. According to Schegg, “The videos were documenting actual maintenance procedures that were not in the manufacturers’ manuals.” This was particularly true with plant start-ups. “Problems arise during plant start-up that may not be known during the design phase or when the manufacturer put together their operations and maintenance manual,” said Schegg. “We see and resolve inconsistencies between the plans, manufacturers’ literature and recommended settings so that our manuals present the actual process and equipment operating and maintenance procedures necessary at your site.”

The Outcome

Once the video O&M manuals were completed, RCAC returned to the systems to review the manual with the operators. “We don’t just say, ‘Here’s your manual’” says Harvey. “We sit down and review every section with system operators to ensure that the information in the manual and video is completely accurate and, more importantly, that the operators understand how to use it.”

The Campo EPA department recently received a completed video O&M manual. Melissa Estes, Campo EPA Director, commented on the decision to have RCAC create the manual, “IHS recommended RCAC. The bid we received from RCAC was very reasonable compared to other consultants.  RCAC met with the Tribe’s Executive Committee and the Committee decided RCAC were experienced working with tribal governments and would do a good job, so the Committee approved the contract.   Since the Tribe and the tribal EPA had worked closely with RCAC on other projects we felt they would do an outstanding job.” 

In reference to the actual manual, Estes referred to it as being, “very user friendly,” and went on to note, “This manual will accommodate people who learn from reading, and others who learn from seeing.  The format is helpful for people who like to read directions or see them on a video. It is very helpful to have a manual specific to the system you operate, with actual demonstrations of how to operate the components.” 

RCAC knew that a video O&M manual would provide several benefits to small systems such as; increased operator technical capacity, a more effective preventive maintenance program, a more effective emergency maintenance program, a more accurate ability to budget for parts and labor, and having an enhanced training tool for new operators that acts as a safety net should the system find themselves one day without an operator. 

Still there were other, unexpected benefits that came about during the creation of these manuals. By bringing together engineers, operators, contractors, and technical representatives and analyzing the processes, each party began to get a better understanding of their role as it interrelates to other roles. As Schegg states, “The manual brings together documented and undocumented procedures from the standpoint of an operator which proved to be a tool not only for the operator but also engineers and contractors who use the information to modify those processes in the future and hopefully have an advantage when starting a new design.”

The Future

With the success of the three video O&M manuals, RCAC has plans for not only creating more treatment plant manuals, but to expand to other utility operations. “We are currently in the process of finishing a wastewater treatment plant manual and putting together proposals for creating distribution system manuals using the same video format,” Harvey said.

As for whether or not other systems would be interested in video O&M manuals, “Almost 100% of the managers and operators I have talked with would prefer to have an O&M manual with video integrated into the text,” states Harvey. And when asked if she would recommend this style of O&M manual to other systems, Estes replied, “Yes, we would recommend this style to other water systems.” 


The Tribal Utility Governance (TUG) training series is designed to help the managers of tribal water systems better understand how all the pieces of utility management fit together. Like other water systems, tribes often face competing pressures from the public they serve and the government that ultimately makes many decisions. 

Effective and sustainable utility management requires that a holistic and long-term view serves as the broader context for short-term decision making. A federal government task force committed to working on tribal infrastructure issues states this goal

"Access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation shall be provided through entities that are sustainable and implemented through integrated agency planning that link sthe development goals of the tribe with the need for such services and infrastructure."

Such a large charge to water and wastewater systems means that heads must come together within the tribe to discuss the financial, managerial and technical issues. It is often the utility manager or another senior operator, who must serve as a leader to balance needs and facilitate understanding of all parties. 

To assist with this important communication and education challenge, the task force prepared a short document that outlines commonalities and best practices of sustainable tribal utilities. I'm sure few would disagree that it is often the following recommendation is one of the most challenging:

"Day-to-day management and funding for the utility should be isolated from politics, either through an independent utility board (e.g., NTUA, TOUA) which provides oversight and high-level direction, or a separate entity (e.g., ARUC)."

However, this reference can serve as the perfect launchpoint for discussions that initiate baby steps in the right direction.  


The Housing Assistance Council works to improve housing conditions in impoverished rural areas. Basic access to safe drinking water and sanitation is of course an important aspect of their mission. 

In their 2010 report, Taking Stock: Social, Economic, and Housing Conditions in Rural America, this graphic illustrates the geographic distribution of homes without complete plumbing. 

On one hand, we can see that the tribal, border and Alaska Native communities have the most challenges. This is consistant with a 2010 report by the Indian Health Service that indicated that 12% of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities did not have basic access.

On the other, it clearly illustrates that there are safe water and sanitation access challenges that exist across the United States. While the 2005 Census said that only 0.6% of non-native homes lack access, this amounts to more than 1.5 million Americans living without the basics.

Most of you reading this post probably know this.

A Public Perception Problem
We participated in #STEMchat recently, a Twitter chat of parents and educators interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) topics. The theme of the month was water, with an emphasis on how we perceive and value the resource. 

When the topic of basic access was raised, conversation quickly turned to developing nations. While no one would argue that significant public health challenges exist outside of the United States, why does the public dialogue most often exclude the problems here at home?

The chat participants seemed surprised and confused when we mentioned the statistics above. Until the public stops seeing water infrastructure access as a "not here" problem, concern and funding for tribal and rural programs will remain inadequate. 

Need help educating the public? The RCAP report, Still Living without the Basics in the 21st Century, is a good place to start. 


During 2011 and 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted a series of face-to-face training events for tribal water and wastewater operators. The training sessions emphasized practical, applicable knowledge about operations and maintenance (O&M) as well as asset management.

The materials have been archived into series of interactive, self-paced training modules. Topics for the new training modules include:

  • Sewer System Overview 
  • Lift Station Overview 
  • Overview of Lagoon System Management 
  • Decentralized Wastewater Systems 
  • Providing and Protecting Potable Water 
  • Drinking Water Distribution System Management 
  • Storage Tank Management 
  • Asset Management 
  • Techniques for Developing a Rate Structure 
  • Water and Wastewater Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Case Studies

While the content was developed with tribal operators in mind, it is highly applicable to most small or rural systems. The format allows an operator, manager or board member to consume the material on his own time and only the topics that are applicable. 


When you sign up for our Tribal Utility News newsletter, you're asked what challenges tribal water and wastewater systems face, specifically what challenges that are different from other small systems. We've been listening closely to the responses. Here is a summary:
Who Responded
We have had about 60 responses to our survey. Though we don't know who said what, the folks who signed up for the newsletter include tribal operators, various technical assistance providers, and staff from several federal agencies that serve tribal interests. Based on the responses, it seems that everyone in those groups provided at least a little input.
There Are A Lot Of Similarities
First of all, tribal systems are facing many of the same challenges that non-tribal small systems are facing all over the country.  The responses mirror many of the things we hear all the time from small systems.  We'll provide some of that information in a different post, however.
There Are Definately Additional Challenges/Issues For Tribal Systems
Tribal systems face unique challenges related to their sovereignty, government, federal support, and tribal issues/attitude. Remember, we are here to be impartial, share what others have said, and hopefully move forward the dialogue on how to support tribal water and wastewater operators and the systems they serve. Below is the list we have so far. We welcome comments, suggestions, and most importantly, positive ideas for solving the challenges tribal water and wastewater systems face:
Remoteness and Isolation
- Cooperation and compromise with nearby non-tribal systems
- Seclusion from non-tribal resources (state and county)
- Ability to work with state entities (want to be able to)
Support From Tribal Government
- understanding the need for qualified operators
- tribal council involvement can be low
- lack of interest in water and wastewater issues
- need for a water board to make fair decisions (need independence)
- using system for political patronage
Dependence On Federal Entities
- need to take ownership of systems (attitude)
- dependence on slow moving federal bureaucracy/assistance
Tribal Issues/Attitudes
- high unemployment, new operators leave for better job
- cooperation and compromise with non-tribal systems
- non-tribal operators may not be able to stay on reservation
- tribal politics
- reluctance to work with outside entities to deal with problems, repairs
What's The Point?
There was one comment, only mentioned once, that makes the point that everyone involved with water and wastewater needs to remember. They said: "lack of emphasis on compliance for health and safety of citizens." When we all look at why we are involved with this profession and specifically involved in supporting tribal water and wastewater folks, isn't providing safe drinking water and clean discharge to the environment the only thing that really matters? Would some of these issues go away if we just made that the focus everyday, instead of some of the issues mentioned above?
Please Comment
We welcome comments, so please either post a comment on this blog post of send an email to info@smallwatersupply.org.



Though their climates could not be more different, the Colonias of the rural southwest United States and the Alaska Native Villages, share similar struggles with inadequate infrastructure. Though many rural and tribal communities face real challenges, as a whole these areas are most lacking in access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation.

We recently heard about two positive stories involving funding from U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Water and Environmental Program. 

On the Tohono O'odham Nation in southwest Arizona, "a partnership between USDA RD and the Indian Health Services made possible the construction of stand-alone modular bathrooms—with a toilet, shower, water heater, and indoor/outdoor lighting." 

Three thousand miles away in Toksook Bay, Alaska residents are looking forward to a new USDA-funded treatment plant that "will provide these residents with improved health to people who currently self-haul waste in five gallon buckets and collect rain for drinking water."

In both regions, federal agencies are actively collaborating to address the water infrastructure and other needs. The Border Capital Community Initiative institutes a partnership between USDA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Treasury Department.

Similarly, the Infrastructure Task Force to Improve Access to Safe Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation in Indian Country includes five federal partners: USDA, HUD, Department of Health and Human Services (Indian Health Service), Department of the Interior (Bureau of Indian Affairs), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Additional Posts on Tribal Funding



In any new water project, the structure and management of the project are important factors of success. You need to know how things will be done and whom will do them. These details are often required when applying for loan or grant funding in the form of a Quality Assurance Project Plan or QAPP. 

The U.S. EPA has a number of resources related to Quality Assurance Project Plans. Generally the EPA requires a Quality Assurance Project Plan when projects are directly conducted by the EPA, or when they are funded by a grant, contract, or other agreement from the EPA.

The QAPP lays out the procedures and other technical information related to data collection, modeling, and other items needs to gather a clear picture of the scope of a project before it is undertaken.
The EPA’s website offers a great deal of information on QAPPs, from explaining them to developing them. For instance, they developed a guide for Alaska Tribal QAPP which can serve as an introduction and template for other tribal operators developing similar documents.
Additionally, they have a Quality Assurance Project Plan Development Tool, which is a series of documents and guides to help in the step-by-step development of your unique plan. And they have published a self-guided course online which consists of both Powerpoint and Word documents that offer an introduction to plan development. There are also a number of examples and additional online resources available.
The QAPP can be viewed as a blueprint for collecting the relevant data to ensure a successful project. A Quality Assurance Project Plan is required in addition to a Quality Management Plan, as the two documents provide unique information needed for any project.  
The links above provide a good introduction to Quality Assurance Project Plans, and the EPA’s website has additional material to assist in understanding and developing a plan. 

New projects to improve infrastructure and facilities improvements at tribal colleges have been funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The grants come from the department's Rural Development program and the Tribal College Grant initiative.

Twenty one of the 39 tribal colleges within the United States, which all hold federal land-grant college status, are recipients of this funding. Land-grant colleges traditionally focus on agriculture, science, and engineering education, though many offer a broader curriculum today. Thus, many of the tribal colleges offer environmental programs that include water-related education. 

This funding will not only support improved facility conditions on campus, but bolster these institutions and their education of future water professionals. 



A youth camp led by graduate students from the University of Idaho gets students from the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane tribes involved in outdoor activities and, more importantly, hands-on scientific water study.

The camp is scheduled to continue for three years, offering students the opportunity to combine their enjoyment of the outdoors with the scientific importance of protecting watersheds, as well as the relationships between the landscape and water resources. Programs like this can help keep students interested in science, and can introduce them further to the importance of water management and environmental protections.
There are a number of educational resources available online to apply in your area and help engrain the importance of water and water protection. For instance, the Water Education Foundation offers elementary education materials for grades 4-6 on their website, and advanced materials for grades 7-12. Educators can even order lessons and programs from their site covering subjects from storm water to complete water science, water conservation, and more.
Similarly, Northern Arizona University has established an Environmental Education Outreach Program, with a variety of environmental science subjects and materials for grades K-16.
Introducing the importance of water protection and treatment to students not only helps improve science education levels, but helps them become interested in the crucial matters of water management that will be needed for generations to come. 

Several recent developments have illustrated the potential for receiving and applying funds from various agencies to meet pressing water needs on Tribal grounds.

The Crow Tribe recently signed an agreement, part of the Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 2010, that will provide for the construction of a water system that will adequately serve the needs of tribal members on the Crow Reservation. Through the signing, funds can be transferred to the tribe for the construction of municipal, rural, and industrial water system through the Bureau of Reclamation.
Additionally, a $1 million grant provided by the USDA to the Nottawaseppi Huron Band will allow water supply services to be extended to many homes on the reservation currently relying on small wells. That grant is part of the USDA’s Rural Development 306C Program, which we have mentioned here on the blog before.
The U.S. EPA also awarded a grant to the Mescalero Apache Tribe for water pollution control, allowing the tribe to collect data, analyze needs, and determine if a more robust program is needed to preserve and protect water quality for the tribe.
These are just a few examples of funding making its way to tribes that need water supply improvements or even the establishment of new services. It is easy sometimes to become mired in the process of searching for grants, drafting and submitting applications, or finding for other funding possibilities, but these examples illustrate that the process does work.
On our blog and our Tribal Resources page, we work to provide as much information as possible to make searching for such opportunities a little easier. The federal agencies and assistance providers that operate in your jurisdiction often provide one-on-one assistance in the funding process. You just need to ask. 
Additional sources of information include the U.S. EPA’s Grants & Funding page, Grants.gov, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation among others. For specific questions, or to find out who you might contact for more information, visit our Contact Database Search Page

Many tribes face a mosaic of environmental challenges, with water and wastewater treatment as only one piece of the puzzle. As tribes grapple with these issues, tribal colleges provide one source of natural resource training and information. Though we were not able to find any tribal colleges that currently offer operator-specific programs, several do offer classes and degree programs that could be of interest to those invested in preserving and managing water and other natural resources.

Hydrology Program at Salish Kootenai

Salish Kootenai College, located on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, offers Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in Hydrology. The Associate’s degree is intended to prepare students for work as a water quality or geo-technician for a variety of agencies. The Bachelor’s degree can prepare students to design and direct research projects on water resources, go on to graduate school, or qualify them for work as managers and directors of a variety of water resource-related programs, both public and private. Like many environmental science programs offered by tribal colleges, this program seeks to provide technical and theoretical expertise from western science, while at the same time seeking to highlight the importance of water resources to tribal traditions, culture, and spirituality.

Environmental Science at Tribal Colleges

As is mentioned above, many tribal colleges offer environmental sciences classes, sometimes as part of a standalone associate’s program, sometimes as preliminary coursework for earning a bachelor’s at a four-year institution. The courses offered vary depending on the school, but many schools include watershed or water resource management classes in the required curriculum. Most also offer classes on the importance of the environment to the tribe’s spirituality and cultural heritage, and discuss the ways that western resource management practices dovetail with those cultural traditions. To see if there’s a tribal college near you, and what classes they offer, check the membership roster of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

Is there a program we missed, or one you think is particularly worth highlighting? Tell us in the comments!



The St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council Recently reached out to the community for assistance in developing a geographic response plan.

A geographic response plan is a planning document that provides crucial information guiding first responders in quickly and safely assessing and addressing oil or chemical spills that may threaten water sources. The Washington State Department of Ecology has a slideshow available the covers some of the basic information about what these plans are and how they should be developed.
In the case of this particular council, they were seeking information about access points and the availability of access to the river should a spill occur. By receiving permission for and documenting the access points, first responders and cleanup crews will be able to address spills more immediately and limit the area of damage. As the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection explains, “As a response tool the GRP allows quick decisions to be made by providing detailed geographic information on shoreline types, sensitive natural and cultural resources. This information, together with estimates of response equipment requirements, staging locations and pre-identified deployment strategies for protecting sensitive environmental areas, provides a basis for local responder to develop a more effective and coordinated initial response.”
Tribal water operators may find it useful to review local GRPs to understand how a spill and the resultant response plan may affect their operations, and to ensure that they are included in the list of people to be contacted should a spill occur.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s website provides detailed information about how their GRP was developed. While the challenges and constraints for communities in Alaska are unique, the site offers extensive details and examples that may be helpful in guiding tribal communities and rural areas in developing a plan of their own. 

Earlier this month the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians received a $1 million federal grant for water and sewer upgrades to provide proper services and the community and a new hospital being built in the area.

This grant is just one example of the resources available to tribal communities and water operators to help improve the safety, reliability, and effectiveness of their water systems. Specifically, this grant was made possible by the USDA’s Water and Environment Program.
The agency’s page features links to programs especially geared toward tribal water needs, including direct loans and grants and grants needed to alleviate health risks. Recognizing the unique needs of tribal communities and the potential for emergency assistance to meet water needs, there are also Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants available. These may be of special interest given the widespread drought issues of this summer, or due to hazards including chemical spills or leakage.
Other opportunities for funding and assistance exist under different USDA Rural Development programs, including the Community Facilities Direct and Guaranteed Loans, which are available to tribal governments for developing “essential community facilities in rural areas and towns of up to 20,000 in population.”
To find out more about available resources for your water operation, contact the USDA Rural Development staff

As our team gathers documents and events for our frequently-used databases, we come across great websites. Earlier this summer we highlighted the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment websiteOne of our core missions is showcasing how our partners are helping small systems, so we're excited to share another today! 

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection offers a significant amount of information online for free, including resources, best practices, guides, and more, all for small water systems. Their main web page for drinking water resources has a long list of links, contacts, and other information, but we’ll highlight some of the more broadly relevant information below. Visit the link above and explore their site though for further information about drinking water, wastewater systems, water resources and wetlands, and more.

Some of the highlights include web-based best practices guides for distribution systems, water system operator roles and responsibilities and cross-connection control. Their training section features downloadable Powerpoint presentations and training modules covering certified operator updates, tank maintenance and inspection, asset management, changes to current regulation, and additional categories relevant to operators. You can scroll further down that section for links directly to EPA resources for training, small system practice exam links, and further resources for water professionals. They have compiled a series of links to information specific to grant and funding assistance as well.

For more regularly updated information of interest to water operators, you can also view their newsletter “In the Main” online. While some of the articles may be more specific to Massachusetts, there is a good deal of technical assistance information relevant to any public water suppliers and operators. 

Navigating the legal issues that come along with water rights and water quality can prove to be quite a challenge, especially if information is difficult to find. Fortunately, there is a monthly newsletter devoted solely to water issues, and for “water lawyers, engineers, regulatory agencies, tribes, municipalities, environmental organizations and anyone interested in water law, water rights, and water quality in the western United States.”

The Water Report is a subscription-based monthly newsletter that has been published since 2004, and covers news, developments, requirements, and more in the world of water rights and laws. The website provides an index of past articles, allowing you to see at a glance some of the content that they have published in the past. Additionally, there is an option to request a free issue so that you can see the types of information being presented before making the decision to subscribe, and to view archived sample issues online also.

Deciding on whether to subscribe or not will depend on your particular needs and work related to water rights and laws, but with the links above you can get a fairly clear picture of whether or not the newsletter would be a valuable resource. You can also view their page of Western Water Law Links, which provides an extensive list of sites related to water issues in the western U.S.
Visit TheWaterReport.com to see if the information provided might be useful for your community or organization. 
Posted in: Tribal Systems

Amigos Bravos, a non-profit organization, was formed in 1988 with the mission of helping to protect the rivers and Rio Grande watershed in New Mexico. Their work covers a variety of functions, all of which are aimed at protecting and helping provide clean, safe water to the communities that rely on it.

Their Clean Water Circuit Rider program offers several Clean Water Act workshops throughout the year for communities in New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. They also organize volunteer river cleanups, and work with affiliated organizations to assist in compiling water quality sampling reports.
Organizations like this, working with limited resources, demonstrate what is possible in terms of protecting and providing access to safe, clean water for your communities. Amigos Bravos mission reaches into a variety of issues, and yours may be more focused or singular depending on your community’s concerns and needs. But there are several areas of interest on their site to explore, including fact sheets that provide not only information about specific issues, but also contact information for community members to voice their concerns directly to officials and other action items.
Explore their site for additional ideas that are relevant to your community, and be sure to contact them for information about their workshops and resources that would be useful in developing or hosting programs of your own. 

The USDA’s Water and Environmental Programs Native American Grant recently provided the Mississippi Choctaw band with $1 million for water treatment and sewer upgrades, addressing significant deficiencies for the community.

From the USDA’s website:
“The project was funded through the USDA Water and Environmental Programs (WEP) Native American Grant. Water and Environmental Programs (WEP) provide loans, grants and loan guarantees for drinking water, sanitary sewer, solid waste and storm drainage facilities in rural areas and cities and towns of 10,000 or less. Public bodies, non-profit organizations and recognized Indian tribes may qualify for assistance. WEP also makes grants to nonprofit organizations to provide technical assistance and training to assist rural communities with their water, wastewater, and solid waste problems. Every effort is made to identify and fund the neediest projects.”
To find out more about the grants and how they can be used to help your community establish or improve water treatment and safe, healthy access to water, visit the USDA Rural Development’s site about Water and Waste Disposal Direct Loans and Grants. These funds can be utilized to “develop water and waste disposal systems in rural areas and towns with a population not in excess of 10,000.”
Similar funding is available from the EPA, as evidenced by the recent grant awarded to the Penobscot Tribe in Maine, this one specifically for the purpose of protecting and cleaning source water rather than establishing water treatment. 
See some of our other posts to find additional information on funding resources that may be relevant to your specific tribal water needs.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, consisting of both military and civilian personnel, has as part of their mission a focus on partnering and working with tribes to address water needs and establish efficient, effective, and lasting water resources for tribal communities.

The Plan of Action on Tribal Consultation details the commitment that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have established agency-wide to facilitate work with tribal agencies and communities, as well as offering training opportunities for wastewater and environmental operators.
Through partnerships with the EPA, NOAA, the Department of the Interior, USDA, and other agencies, the USACE also works to complete the work of the Estuary Restoration Act, consisting of dozens of projects in 30 states. The importance of this to tribal operators is in the fact that the USACE is required and dedicated to consulting with tribal communities when federal projects may impact their lands – the emphasis on communication in these projects and instances offers tribal operators information about potential effects on their systems prior to and during projects.
As the largest water resources development and management agency, the USACE is uniquely positioned to offer assistance at all levels of water operations. Their publication, “How to Plan a Water Resources Project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers” provides an informative and complete list of steps and details, including cost sharing, budgeting, and more. You can also find numerous other tribal publications, historical documents, and more at their online database.
There is a tremendous amount of information about how the USACE can provide resources to tribal water operators at their various sites, but one of the first places to visit is their Planning Community Toolbox
Posted in: Tribal Systems

Resources for Tribal operators are spread out all over the web, and it can often be difficult to find the information needed. While a great deal of material is based on the websites of Federal agencies like the U.S. EPA, it can take quite some time to locate specific information related to regulations, training, and the like.

Northern Arizona University, and specifically their Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, works with Federal agencies to develop programs related to the specific needs of Tribal waste management, emergency response, and similar environmental needs.
Their Resource Information Center (PDF brochure) contains hundreds of documents on a range of environmental subjects including solid waste and water management, among others. You can search the Resource Information Center by category as well. The information available includes lesson plans, technical documents and guides, and more.
For the latest information, they also publish a newsletter that includes news on grant opportunities, courses and training, and conferences.
While there is not yet a central resource providing all of the information that tribal operators and environmental professionals need, the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals is a valuable site that can help navigate more easily to the specific information you need. Contact them with questions or to find out if they have or offer what you’re looking for. 

The list of selected awardees from the Environmental Protection Agency's recent $15 million RFA for Training and Technical Assistance for Small Systems has been announced. According to the Agency's website, "this initiative supports EPA’s continuing efforts to promote sustainability and public health protection for communities served by small systems."

  • SDWA Compliance - Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and National Rural Water Association (NRWA)
  • Capacity Development - New Mexico Environmental Finance Center (NMEFC) 
  • Wastewater/Private Wells - Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP)
  • Technical Assistance to Tribes - Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP)

Documents and events from each of these organizations are indexed in our database. USDA Rural Development also operates a Technical Assistance and Training grant program that supports outreach to small water and wastewater systems. 



In January, 2012, the U.S. EPA and the Corporation for National and Community Service announced that Indian General Assistance Program grants could be used as match funding for AmeriCorps volunteer programs.

AmeriCorps support for tribal groups can include environmental programs, such as rehabilitating and protecting water sources, expand water services, increase capacity for existing systems, and other programs. These are just a few examples related to water concerns, but AmeriCorps volunteers are also available for education, environmental preservation, disaster preparedness, and additional options.
AmeriCorps has produced a PDF with information on leveraging environmental support, which you can view here. They may be useful in helping tribal water operators develop several types or phases of environmental protection programs related to water issues. 

Project WET is an organization that since its founding has been devoted to helping educate a number of audiences about water resources, concerns, and other topics related to water. They have a number of resources available, including a traveling exhibit entitled Native Waters: Sharing the Source.

This traveling exhibit is designed with both children and adults in mind, and allows visitors to “explore the importance of water in their lives.” Through audio and visual materials, graphics, demonstrations, and hands-on activities, the exhibit focuses on the spiritual, cultural, and scientific importance of water, specifically in the Missouri River Basin. Visitors can explore the path that water takes from the Rocky Mountains into the Mississippi River and Missouri River Basin area.
Project WET also offers other resources specific to Tribal water concerns, including environmental education and training, an internship program, and other items. Visit their site to see how they may be able to provide information and assistance to Tribal water projects. 

President Obama’s administration has been working to improve and strengthen relationships with Tribal Nations, with special concern for ensuring healthy and prosperous futures for current and future generations.

Among the highest priorities for many tribes is the concern for safe, available, and sustainable water resources. To that end, the Crow Tribe recently signed an agreement with the State of Montana and the U.S. Department of the Interior to “resolve longstanding grievances over shortages of water for drinking and crops on the tribe's arid reservation.” (Billings Gazette)
The agreement, and similar settlements and agreements like one between the Sodoba Band and southern California, are important steps in making sure that tribal lands have the available water resources needed to maintain adequate irrigation and household uses.
The White House has also created a useful page that lists a number of Tribal resources available within Federal Agencies. It is a convenient one-stop directory of several web links directly to the offices that deal specifically with Tribal issues, including water management, policy development, technical advice resources, and other areas. 

Funding is often a major impediment to establishing and improving water resources on Tribal lands, but it is not the only one. Addressing the infrastructure needs of underserved communities, rural areas, and tribal lands requires a great deal of technical expertise as well, which can be hard to come by with budgetary limitations.

One of the EPA’s programs is designed to help bridge this gap – The Smart Growth Implementation Assistance (SGIA) Program.

The program is distinctive from those that generally award funding. Instead, the SGIA program provides technical expertise and community outreach to entities that work towards economic growth and public health improvements. While a variety of initiatives and projects could certainly meet those criteria, Tribal water concerns and needs are well within the range of possible recipients of this assistance.

For 2012, the SGIA program chose 5 recipients for assistance, one of which was the Spokane Tribe of Indians in Washington State. With the technical assistance provided by this award, the Spokane Tribe will be developing a water infrastructure plan that seeks to address significant and recurring challenges to the water needs of the community.

An additional tool available from the EPA’s Smart Growth program is the Water Quality Scorecard. Developing and protecting water resources on Tribal lands means writing and implementing both short- and long-term policies that ensure the safety and availability of water for generations. The Water Quality Scorecard provides information that communities can use to create and revise policies in order to best protect available resources and access to them.

For more information about the types of projects that have been approved or completed already under the Smart Growth Implementation Assistance Program, you can review the project summaries page at the EPA’s Smart Growth site. 

Technical assistance providers and federal agencies that serve and support tribal water and wastewater systems have developed a unifying and comprehensive strategy to coordinate services.  This approach has given everyone involved a better understanding of the roles they each play in supporting tribal systems and has resulted in improved working relationships that are paying dividends for the tribes they serve.
Tribal Technical Assistance Workgroup
A national workgroup was formed to look at the technical services being offered to tribal water and wastewater systems.  The group included tribes; those providing tribal services including rural water associations, regional RCAP affiliates, tribal organizations; as well as the federal partners also serving tribes, IHS, USEPA, and USDA.  The IHS found that about 12% of American Indian and Alaskan Native Village homes do not have safe water and/or basic sanitation facilities, compared to 0.6% of non-native homes in the US.  The committment was made to try and reduce the number of tribal homes without access by 50% by 2015.
In evaluating services, they found that service was inconsistent across Indian Country, in some areas there was coordination among service providers, but in many some areas there was not. Lack of coordination and communication has lead to confusion, conflict, or inefficient use of limited resources. The workgroups objective was to maximize the benefits that coordination and communication would provide to create a higher level of service for all tribal systems, while minimizing the duplicate services and conflicts that were barriers to service and wasting resources. The result of their efforts was the Tribal Access Workgroup Report that describes their efforts, and provides recommendations on how to move forward to develop better coordination and communication among tribal service providers.
The Recommendations
The workgroup came up with 9 recommendations to improve coordination that revolved around two specific action items.  One was development of an online tool that should be maintained to allow service providers and recipients to easily identify their respective TA partners.  The other action item was to hold semi-annual technical assistance coordination meetings, and in the report, the structure, format, protocol, and justification are all provided in detail.
The online tool is the Tribal Contact Manager database, found under "Tribal Resources" on SmallWaterSupply.org.  If you are a provider or tribe interested in knowing who your partners are, you can search the database for a list by organization, then click on the specific office to get to their contact information.
The technical assistance provider (TAP) meetings are ongoing.  I have been fortunate enough to participate in these meetings, so far, in Arizona and Nevada, and its clear that this approach is providing the service providers with a new, improved paradigm with which to develop services. Region 5 is holding its next TAP meeting next week, we are already seeing the providers sharing information in advance of that meeting.
Communication and coordination are always crucial pieces of any service program.  Formalizing an approach that takes advantage of everyone's strengths is already providing dividends for the providers. We are excited to see the long-term value of these coordination meetings come to light as tribal services become more consistent, efficient, and effective.
 Now that the Tribal Resources page is active, we thought it would be a good time to go through some of the best ways to search our site for tribal events and training.
The Tribal Difference
Tribal water and wastewater operators have a different process for certification.  They follow the certification requirements for the National Tribal Operator Certification program.  Because this certification doesn't follow any state boundaries, a tribal operator can't easily find training nearby using the "State" search in our event calendar, even though one of the options is "National Tribal Operator Certification"  If you select State=National Tribal Operator Certification, your results will include tribal events from all over the country. 
How The 'State' Criteria Works In the Event Search
Our database and search program uses both the location of the event and the state offering CEU's as criteria when you search by state.  So, if you search by State=Arizona, then all events in Arizona, including tribal events, will be displayed.  Any training in a different state that is accepted by Arizona for CEU credit will also be displayed. 
Our System Narrows It Down For You
The best approach for finding tribal events near you is to use a series of conditions.  For instance, if you are in Arizona, then first select, 'State=Arizona", then use the 2nd filter select button to choose 'Category=Tribal'.  You could also put 'tribal' in the key word filter, or if you were searching for training from a specific organization, like the Indian Health Service, you could use the 2nd filter select button to choose, 'Sponsor=Indian Health Service', and only IHS events in Arizona would be displayed.
Be Creative
Searching for information is all about the words you use.  If you are looking for a specific training, say about arsenic, you can use the 3rd filter select button to narrow the search down even further to only those tribal events in Arizona that have a component of the training dealing with arsenic.  Or you could select 'State=National Tribal Operator Certification', and then 'Category=Arsenic' in the 2nd filter. Most of the time you won't need to get that specific, there aren't so many events on the calendar that you have to use the 3rd filter, but sometimes it can happen.   
Here's a what a search would look like after applying all three filters:
Most importantly, if you have any trouble finding events, or documents of interest for that matter, call or email us.  We will gladly assist you in searching for information, or even walking through a short tutorial over the phone to answer your questions and help you find what you are looking for.
2012 Americorps Planning Grants
 Intent to Apply due: Dec. 15 (via email to: americorpsgrants@cnc.gov)
Applications due: Jan. 18, 2012
Americorps has three different grant opportunities available: Indian Tribes Planning Grants, and State and National Planning Grants. These planning grants are meant to assist and better prepare organizations who hope to compete for an Americorps grant in the next grant cycle. The six areas that grant competion will focus on are economic opportunity, disaster services, healthy futures, education, veterans & military families, and environmental stewardship. Applicants may apply for up to $50,000, but the applicant must not have previously received an AmeriCorps grant.

Technical Assistance and Training Grants for Rural Systems (USDA Rural Development)
Apply by: Dec. 31

Grants are available from USDA Rural Development to help non-profit organizations in rural areas with a wide range of issues relating to the delivery of water and waste disposal service. Please see http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/UWP-wwtat.htm for more information.
FY 2012 Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) - HUD
Apply by: Jan. 4, 2011
The ICDBG program from HUD is offering single-purpose grants which can be used for a wide range of infrastructure, housing, and economic development purposes, which includes (but is not limited to) water and sewer system development. Go to this page  for more information. Please note that Congress must still appropriate the funding for the FY 2012 program. HUD's SWONAP staff is conducting two ICDBG Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) workshops (one in Phoenix on Nov. 30-Dec.1, and one in Albuquerque on Nov. 30) designed principally for tribes, tribal organizations and individuals directly involved in the preparation of ICDBG Applications. To register for the Phoenix workshop go here. To register for the Albuquerque workshop go here  

Last week President Obama announced that fourteen projects would be expedited through the review and permitting projects, as part of his jobs creation program. The Navajo-Gallop Water Supply project is on the list.

From Circle of Blue...
"The 280-mile pipeline network would deliver San Juan River water to the Navajo Nation, the Jicarilla-Apache Nation, and the city of Gallup, N.M., weaning those areas from unsustainable groundwater use."

In other news, the USDA Rural Utilities Service is moving forward on implementing of the Substantially Underserved Trust Area ("SUTA") provisions contained in the 2008 Farm bill. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says this "will provide those located in Trust Areas with better access to infrastructure funding to serve tribal communities seeking to build modern utility infrastructure."

Posted in: Tribal Systems

From HUD's Southwest Office of Native American Programs...


The new Native American entrepreneur online series entitled, “Native Entrepreneurs: Faces and Stories of Economic Development,” is dedicated to illustrating why healthy Native economies require innovative and successful entrepreneurs. The series shares success stories about American Indian business owners and examples of what entrepreneurs can do when they have the resources necessary for effective business development. To view the online series, visit www.firstnations.org.

Posted in: Tribal Systems

Funding and Implementing Your CWA 319 Program: Base and Competitive Funding and Developing Work Plans

When: Tuesday September 13, 2011, from 1 to 2:30pm Eastern Time

This webcast will review the Tribal CWA 319 Program funding structure and compare the base and competitive grant processes. Discussion on the competitive grant process will include an update on upcoming changes to the FY 2012 Request for Proposals, differentiate Regional review and Committee review, explain the match component, and discuss the importance of linking the budget and work plan together. The webcast will also cover steps for developing a good work plan and include a tribal case study discussing lessons learned from the base and competitive grant processes.

For more information: www.epa.gov/nps/tribal

Recreational Water Quality Criteria 2011 Stakeholder Webinar

When: September 20, 2011, from 1 to 4:30 pm Eastern Time

EPA is conducting a webinar on selected presentations from the 2011 Stakeholder Meeting on EPA's Development of New or Revised Water Quality Criteria. The webinar will be held on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm EDT. The purpose of the webinar is to obtain input from interested stakeholders who were unable to attend the face-to-face meeting in New Orleans in June 2011. Stakeholders will have an opportunity to provide feedback to EPA on the general direction and EPA's evaluation and current thinking for the new or revised recreational water quality criteria.

For more information: http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/standards/criteria/health/recreation/index.cfm

2011 National Tribal Water Quality Conference Posuwageh (Water Meeting Place) Where CWA Section 106 and 319 Meet

When/Where: November 14-17, 2011 at the Hilton Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino, Santa Fe, New Mexico

EPA is hosting a national conference for all tribes with water quality programs, or those who wish to begin water quality programs. The conference will highlight the blended nature of the Clean Water Act Section 106 and Section 319 programs.

For more information: http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/tribal/conference2011index.cfm

Posted in: Tribal Systems

While a majority of the documents that the US Environmental Protection Agency has developed for small systems are applicable to tribes, they have also created valuable resources with tribal utilities in mind.

Drinking Water

Building Water System Capacity: A Guide for Tribal Administrators
This 6-page handbook is designed to help tribal decision-makers develop capacity for improvement of drinking water systems.

Total Coliform Rule Monitoring Placards for Community Water Systems Serving 25-1,000 People or 1,001 to 10,000 People
These 1-page mini posters may be displayed in the treatment plan as a reminder for the distribution system monitoring requirements for total coliform. Additional posters are available for Non-Community Water Systems.

Lead and Copper Rule Minor Revisions Fact Sheet for Tribal Water System Owners and Operators
This 9-page document presents the minor revisions to the LCR, covering the topics of demonstrating optimal corrosion control, monitoring and reporting, public education, and lead service line replacement.

Preventive Maintenance Tasks for Tribal Drinking Water Systems: Guide Booklet & Log Cards
This 35-page document provides a schedule of routine operation and maintenance tasks for small drinking water systems that use a groundwater supply. They will help you develop a preventive maintenance program for your water system.


Primer for Municipal Wastewater Treatment Systems
This 30-page document provides basic information on municipal wastewater treatment systems and advanced methods for treating wastes.

Tribal Management of Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems
A fact sheet that defines onsite wastewater treatment systems and explains the four onsite wastewater management steps (map, design, maintain, and regulate).

Source Water Protection

Drinking Water Quality in Indian Country: Protecting Your Sources
4-page factsheet provides guidance about source water protection; also lists additional resources for tribes.

For additional resources, you can visit US EPA's pages for tribal drinking water and wastewater systems.


Posted in: Tribal Systems

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sponsoring a series of in-person training workshops for federally recognized tribes and Alaskan Native Villages across the country to help increase participants' skills and knowledge in the operation of wastewater and drinking water treatment systems. The training is intended for water system operators, wastewater system operators, tribal utility managers, tribal council members and leaders involved with water utility management.

Dates and locations include:

  • July 26-28, 2011 — Billings, Montana
  • August 9-11, 2011 — St. Paul, Minnesota
  • September 13-15, 2011 — Phoenix, Arizona
  • September 27-29, 2011 — Kansas City, Kansas
  • October 25-27, 2011 — Anchorage, Alaska

There is no registration fee for the workshops. There is a cap of 50 participants at each session, and tribes and Alaskan Native Villages that received 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds will be given priority. Travel, hotel, and per diem costs for attendees from tribal reservations may be covered by a participant's local Indian Health Service Area office. For more information, including how to register, please go to: http://water.epa.gov/learn/training/tribaltraining/tcourse7_2011.cfm.



For the past several months, SmallWaterSupply.org staff have ramped up efforts to complete a new Tribal Resources content area on the site. We are pleased to let you know this area is now live!

The flagship of this project is a helpful contact manager that lists all of the national, state and regional groups that serve tribal water and wastewater systems and their operators. The contact manager will allow tribes to identify assistance providers as well as the groups that serve them to better coordinate with one another. To keep the tool up-to-date, our staff has been working closely with this large group of providers to establish access and procedures for editing their own information.

Additionally, SmallWaterSupply.org staff will enhance our content delivery gear toward this important subset of small water supplies. Through an ongoing series of blog posts and short articles on tribal issues, resources and events, we will provide the same style of relevant and useful information currently found in our blog and newsletter. The most recent updates will be found on the main page of the new Tribal Resources content area, under News & Information for Tribes and Tribal TA Providers.