Tribal Water Utility Resources for the COVID-19 Pandemic
Read the latest information from EPA about COVID-19 and water. The Tribal Infrastructure Task Force (ITF) is providing the following summary information on resources available to tribal utilities to support the operational needs of drinking water and wastewater systems.
- Tribal Water Sector Technical Assistance and Partnership Resources
- Funding and Financing
- Pandemic Incident Action Checklist
- Water Operators as Essential Workers
- Additional Resources
- The Intertribal Council of Arizona (ITCA) and United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) provide both technical assistance and operator certification to tribal utilities.
- In addition to planning and construction of water utilities, the Indian Health Service Division of Sanitation Facilities Construction provide extensive technical assistance to tribes.
- The Southwest Environmental Finance Center (SWEFC) provide technical assistance and supports EPA certification of tribal operators.
- The National Rural Water Program (NRWA) and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) may be able to provide technical assistance through water and wastewater Circuit Riders that work onsite with utility system personnel to troubleshoot problems and respond to natural disasters and other emergencies.
Water and Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARN)
The EPA encourages coordination of tribal utilities through a Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN). If resource needs arise for any reason, the WARNs provide water and wastewater utilities with the means to quickly obtain help in the form of personnel, equipment, materials and associated services from other utilities to restore critical operations impacted during any type of emergency, big or small. Using the WARN approach to mutual aid and assistance, tribal drinking water and wastewater utilities are able to sign a single agreement covering issues such as indemnification, workers’ compensation, and reimbursement. Utilities can find contact information for their WARN on each state's website or can contact EPA via email.
Funding and Financing
In addition to existing federal programs , the federal government is making resources available to water systems for funding and financing support as a result of the COVID–19 pandemic.
Housing and Urban Development
On April 3rd, 2020, the Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development announced availability of $200 million in COVID-19 Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) allocations from the CARES Act. View allocations to tribes (PDF). Additionally, HUD has expanded program eligibilities through a statutory and regulatory waiver available here (PDF).
HUD has also made available up to $100 million in ICDBG Imminent Threat (IT) funding. This funding is provided in the form of grants to eligible Indian tribes and must be used to prevent, prepare for, or respond to COVID-19. Additionally, HUD expanded program eligibilities through a statutory and regulator waiver available here (PDF).
- HUD COVID-19 Recovery Website
- Contacts for Housing and Urban Development, Office of Native American Programs
Indian Health Service
On March 27, 2020, the Indian Health Service (IHS) issued a letter to tribal and urban Indian organization leaders announcing the availability of, and distribution decisions for, CARES Act and other funding. The IHS DSFC allocated funding towards
- Provision of No Charge Temporary Water Access Points to increase access to water in homes without piped access
- Provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including goggles and face masks, coveralls, gloves, and boots.
- Rehabilitation of failed treatment and distribution equipment and provision of supplies to ensure continued operation of water and waste systems during the COVID-19 pandemic, where appropriate.
- Repair of failed or non-operational individual water or sewer systems to ensure all tribal homes, including scattered or individual homes, have access to vital drinking water and essential wastewater services.
EPA’s Pandemic Incident Action Checklist is comprised of three different “rip & run” checklists that can help water utilities prepare for, respond to, and recover from a pandemic. Each checklist provides examples of actions that drinking water and wastewater systems can take. EPA conducted a tribal webinar on April 14, 2020 to present the checklist and resources for tribal utilities. Watch the webinar.
Water Operators as Essential Workers
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to tribal leaders requesting that water and wastewater workers, as well as the manufacturers and suppliers who provide vital services and materials to the water sector, are considered essential workers and businesses by state authorities when enacting restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The EPA has also provided a template that tribes, water utilities and technical assistance providers can use to provide documentation to workers that are considered essential.
- EPA Tribal Drinking Water Resources
- EPA’s Main Water Utilities Resource for COVID-19 Pandemic Page
- EPA’s Response On-the-Go App
- EPA’s Tribal Drinking Water Coordinators
- EPA Water Utility COVID-19 Financial Impact Tool
- EPA operator certification coordinators
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Coronavirus webpage
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: Addressing PPE Needs in Non-Healthcare Setting
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): Control and Prevention for Solid Waste and Wastewater Management Workers and Employers
- World Health Organization (WHO)'s 2020 Technical Brief, Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for the COVID-19 virus (Reference number: WHO/2019-NcOV/IPC_WASH/2020.1)
- Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA)'s Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Drinking Water webpage
- Association of Clean Water Administrators COVID-19 Resources
- Water Information Sharing and Analysis Center (WaterISAC) Coronavirus Pandemic webpage
- Water Environment Federation's Coronavirus webpage
- American Water Works Association's AWWA Coronavirus webpage