posted on November 26, 2012 00:34
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:
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
- 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?