Decentralized Wastewater on Tribal Lands | Onsite Overview #4

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Tribal communities face unique challenges when it comes to the management of decentralized wastewater and it’s important that resources are developed with these specific challenges in mind. Simply having a septic system is not unique to those living in Indian Country, but many organizations have recognized that the basic resources available may not cover the questions that arise for tribes when it comes to the operation of these essential utilities. We have compiled a list of resources to get you started if you are interested in finding tribal specific information about septic systems.

Our best resources on this topic:
Water and Wastewater Utility Operation and Management for Tribes - Decentralized Wastewater Systems | U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
This 29-minute presentation includes such topics as system inspection, system maintenance, and "things to avoid" for septic tanks. The module provides an overview of decentralized wastewater treatment and processes and includes a special look at innovative decentralized technologies and "best practices" for managing onsite systems.

Helping Solve Wastewater Challenges in Indian Country | University of Minnesota Water Resources Center
This 56-page guide provides tribal community members and tribal wastewater professionals with a four-phase process on how to assess and find appropriate solutions to community wastewater issues in Indian country. It includes guidance on generating a Community Wastewater Assessment Report, types of septic systems, how to choose the most appropriate wastewater treatment system for your community, and how to implement these solutions. The process outlined here weaves in significant considerations specific to Indian country that will likely improve the success of wastewater projects.

A Homeowner's Guide to Septic Systems for Tribal Communities | U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
This 9-page guide, from the U.S. EPA’s SepticSmart! program, focuses on the unique factors of tribal communities and homeowners on tribal lands in caring for their systems. It contains tips for properly maintaining septic systems as well as troubleshooting for common failure causes.

Onsite Wastewater Management: A Manual for Tribes | New Mexico State University
This 80-page manual helps tribes to take steps to ensure that sources of drinking water are clean and adequately protected against contamination, and that wastewater is appropriately managed. Chapter topics include: Historical Perspective of Native American Wastewater Management, Soils and Site Inspection, Septic Systems, Passive Advanced Treatment Systems, Mechanical Systems, Disinfection, and Reuse and Conservation of Wastewater.

Using a Responsible Management Entity (RME) to Manage Tribal Onsite (Septic) Wastewater Treatment Systems | U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
This 4-page fact sheet/brochure describes the use of a centralized approach for the management of septic systems using a Responsible Management Entity (RME) for oversight and maintenance.

How to find more resources on this topic on our website?
If you are interested in looking through our database for other resources on this topic follow the instructions below:

  1. Select "CATEGORY" in the dropdown then choose "Decentralized WW Systems." 
  2. Once you make that selection, a second dropdown will appear where you can choose "TYPE" if you are looking for a specific kind of resource (videos, factsheets, etc.)
  3. In the Keyword Filter, type “tribal” to make sure the resources are more targeted towards this topic.
  4. The last step is to click the "Retrieve Documents" button to see your results.

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