Alaska Rural Water and Sanitation Working Group
A USARC-Coordinated Working Group
January 24, 2020 | Anchorage, Alaska
Tenth Annual Water and Sanitation Innovations for the Arctic Workshop
Prioritizing Water and Sanitation Capacity Needs
The U.S. Arctic Research Commission, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) hosted a workshop on the topic of providing safe drinking water in rural Alaska that focused on historic, current, and future activities associated with “capacity development” (defined by ADEC as the process through which water systems acquire and maintain adequate technical, managerial, and financial capabilities to enable them to consistently provide safe drinking water). Based on workshop discussions, a report with recommendations, including research efforts to improve capacity development we will be developed and put forward to the ADEC and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Capacity development is a fundamental element of the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, enforced by EPA. Capacity development efforts targeted at rural Alaskan water and wastewater utilities are provided through the Remote Maintenance Worker (RMW) and Rural Utility Business Advisor (RUBA) Programs, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), and by other regulatory programs managed by the ADEC.
In 2000, the ADEC Capacity Development Program developed and implemented a Capacity Development Strategy that was approved by the EPA. An updated strategy was approved in 2013, and DEC initiated another review and update in 2019. To this end, ADEC is currently reviewing prior capacity development efforts, to identify successes and failures, and is documenting current needs and potential solutions to outstanding problems. During the workshop, participants discussed capacity development activities, gaps in the activities and the strategy, and identified needs and research that could help address these things.
The format of the workshop consisted of a half-day of presentations on the history of capacity development, and on current capacity development activities and programs. Presentations included program overviews from on the Alaska Rural Utility Collaborative, the RUBA Program, the RMW Program, the Tribal Utility Support at ANTHC, the Alaska Rural Water Association, and the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, as well as an example of an asset management program started in Southeast Alaska.
The afternoon half of the workshop was spent with participants divided into breakout groups to discuss ways to improve the financial, managerial, technical, and asset management aspects of capacity development. From the outcome of the discussions, the workshop organizers will develop and submit a consensus report to the ADEC and EPA.
Links to pdfs and PowerPoint files for all the workshop presentations are provided below.