Entries for the 'Tribal Systems' Category


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
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