Alaska Water and Sewer Challenge
Rural Alaska Unserved Communities
A served community is one in which more than 55% of homes are served by a piped, septic tank & well, or covered haul system. An unserved community is one in which 55% or less of homes are served by a piped, septic & well, or covered haul system.
Of the more than 200 communities in rural Alaska, the 34 unserved communities are located mainly in western Alaska and along the Yukon River and its tributaries. The number of occupied houses in the unserved communities ranges from 12 to 193. An average of 4 people live in each household and the average household income is $36,329.
Existing Water and Sewer Systems in Rural Alaska
Existing water and sewer systems in rural Alaska are comprised mostly of the following types:
- Washeterias and central watering points – Treated drinking water is delivered to a single service connection and people must use their own containers to collect drinking water. This service level, which exists in about 36 villages, does not provide drinking water to homes or wastewater removal from homes, which means that the basic health benefits of running water and flush toilets are not realized.
- Individual wells and septic systems – Because of soil conditions, these systems are not feasible in many parts of the State. Where they are used, in about 20 villages (February 2015), drinking water wells and septic systems often do not meet the minimum separation distances for safety. Wells can become contaminated with inadequately treated sewage.
- Water and sewer truck or trailer haul systems – This type of service, which is used in about a dozen villages (February 2015), has extremely high operating costs. This often means that homeowners self-limit water use and therefore, do not realize many of the health benefits associated with household running water and sanitary sewage removal.
- Piped water and sewer systems – This service level, prevalent in about 105 villages (February 2015), provides centralized treatment, storage and piped distribution directly to homes. Piped systems are increasingly expensive to construct and maintain.