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Water: Wastewater Management Process

Wastewater in Tribal Communities - Basic Information

Tribal Communities

Native American and Alaskan Native communities are more likely to lack access to wastewater services than other population groups in the United States. In 2012, approximately 12% of American Indian and Alaskan Native Villages homes lacked access to safe drinking water and/or wastewater facilities. Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Census, the American Indian and Alaskan Native populations grew by more than 18% between 2000 and 2010, compared to a 10% increase in the general U.S. population over the same period. As a result, the Indian Health Service reports a 60% increase in the universe of homes without access to either safe drinking water or sanitation or both between 2000 and 2011. A lack of clean water infrastructure in tribal communities threatens public health and the environment, specifically ecosystems that support wildlife and fish upon which these communities commonly rely as subsistence food sources.

Common challenges to achieving and maintaining sustainable wastewater treatment systems faced by tribal communities include (but are not limited to):

  • Economic / financial limitations;
  • Inability to sustain community-wide systems (lack of economies of scale);
  • Inability to attract and maintain system operators;
  • Lack of managerial competency and consistency;
  • Extreme topography and climate;
  • Geographic isolation / remoteness.

EPA is working in partnership with tribal communities, other federal agencies, tribal organizations, state agencies and others to help build tribal wastewater infrastructure, improve water pollution control programs, and strengthen tribal capacity to effectively manage their public health and water resource programs.


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