Alaska Water and Sewer Challenge

Performance Targets

The following Performance Targets have been established for this project. An ideal system would be capable of meeting all these targets, but there may be suitable systems that meet most of these targets but not all, and exceed some targets.

If a proposed system has certain limitations, the team must provide a narrative to explain trade-offs. For instance, if the system will not provide 60 gallons per day of total water use, the team must explain what other advantages the system will provide, such as savings in capital or operating costs.

At a minimum, household service will consist of a kitchen sink, a bathroom sink, a toilet, a shower, and a tap & drain for a clothes washing machine.

Constructability and durability:

Must be able to add the system to existing rural Alaska homes and require minimal, if any, additional floor space. Must be able to withstand everyday use, occasional neglect and abuse, and a general lack of operational understanding on the part of users. In other words, the system should ultimately be able to run like a typical household appliance, such as a clothes washer or dish washer.

Capital cost:

Systems with a lower capital cost are preferable to higher cost systems. Since a wide range of capital costs associated with different kinds of approaches are anticipated, the cost of a particular system will be considered when comparing a proposed system with other approaches.

Water use for health benefits:

Proposed systems should be capable of providing a minimum of 15 gallons of useable water per person per day, comprised of water for drinking and cooking, washing and flushing. Systems which can provide more useable water in the home with less water delivery and wastewater removal are more desirable.

Operation and maintenance cost:

Projected monthly operating costs should not exceed $135, which is 5% of the Median Household Income (MHI) of $2,700 per month. This income level is less than or equal to the MHI of approximately 75% of rural Alaska communities, including larger hub communities.

Freeze/thaw recovery capability:

Systems must be able to be left in an unheated, rural Alaska home for up to several weeks without damage and become operational again with minimal effort.

Modularity of household system:

Modularity should be maximized, with mechanical and electrical parts concentrated to the maximum extent possible in individual, removable modular units, or boxes, which could be removed from the home and taken elsewhere for service. Access to service the unit from outside the home is preferable. Teams are requested to make additional efforts to consolidate system components and reduce the number of moving parts. Ideally, when service or system repairs are needed, the maintenance operator should be able to remove a box or console and replace it with an operational one while the service or repair to the defective console is performed off-site.


The proposed whole-house water and sewer system must be feasible to build and operate in homes in rural Alaska. Factors such as extreme temperatures, permafrost, remote locations, off road systems, willingness of end users to accept and use the water and sewer systems, and the requirements of federal and state agencies who will be funding the systems for installation in rural Alaska must be taken into account. The amount of water hauled into the home and sewer hauled away should be minimized. Similarly, the amount of treated water discharged on the ground should be minimized. These two key aspects also determine the feasibility of a system.

Compliance with plumbing code, wastewater discharge requirements, and other regulations:

The proposed whole-house water and sewer system must comply with the Alaska Plumbing Code.

Teams must specify how their proposed systems will comply with any applicable wastewater discharge permit requirements, drinking water standards for public systems, accepted greywater re-use practices and methods of operation.

Parts availability:

Parts of the system that may have limited suppliers must be identified. If systems or parts of the systems are not currently available, an explanation is need for how they will be supplied at a reasonable cost.

Acceptance and use by end users:

The proposed system should be acceptable for use by residents of rural Alaska. Special consideration should be given to any system element that entails the use of onsite water treatment or recycled wastewater, if utilized for uses other than the toilet.