Rural Alaska Homes Need Your Help

The Alaska DEC is challenging water professionals to help its rural community

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is stepping up its water and sewer game — literally. The DEC wants to improve the health of rural Alaska residents with a new Alaska Water and Sewer Challenge. 

According to the Alaska DEC website, the purpose of the project is to “to find better and more affordable methods to deliver drinking water and sewage disposal services to rural Alaska.” 

The project stresses innovative approaches to decentralized water and wastewater treatment, recycling and minimal water usage systems, which are more suitable for individual homes and housing clusters.

The DEP issued RFPs from August to November 2013 to jumpstart the challenge with an international solicitation for teams to create innovative, cost-effective designs for water and sewer technologies that can be constructed and operated in an arctic climate. Solicitations were sent to individuals from water and wastewater engineering companies, research institutions, manufacturers, and business and science industries. 

“Up to six of the highest ranked teams will receive funding to develop written proposals that meet specific requirements relating to constructability, health benefits, affordability and operational considerations,” says the website. 

The following timeline outlines the next steps for the project: 

Phase 1: Formation of Teams – 2013
Phase 2: Proposal Development and Presentation – 2014
Phase 3: Prototype Development and Pilot Testing – 2014/2015
Phase 4: Field System Development and Testing – 2015/2016
Phase 5: Technology Refinement and Improvement – 2016/2017 

With more than 6,000 rural homes in Alaska lacking running water and a flush toilet, significantly reducing the capital and operating costs of in-home running water and sewer is the main driver of the challenge. 

A decentralized system would provide small-scale treatment to each home, which would be much more cost-effective than community-wide piped systems and truck haul systems. According to the website, many communities cannot afford the high operation and maintenance costs associated with those systems. 

Does your community experience this type of cost-prohibitive problem associated with conventional sewer systems in rural areas? What are your thoughts on minimizing this problem?


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