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Alaska Water and Sewer Challenge

Re-Locate LLC has been selected, in partnership with Summit Consulting Services INC and Agnew::Beck Consulting as one of three teams who will build prototype systems as part of Phase 3 of the Alaska Water and Sewer Challenge.

“To improve the health of rural Alaska residents,” the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is spearheading the Alaska Water Sewer Challenge: “a research and development effort to find better and more affordable ways to deliver drinking water and sewage disposal services to rural Alaska.” Over 6,000 homes in Alaska lack running water and flush toilets.

The need to advance water and sewer services in rural villages across the state received recent attention at a special hearing in Anchorage on August 14 attended by the U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic, Admiral Robert Papp. At the hearing, people from across the state shared their perspectives the issues they thought the Arctic Council should prioritize over the next year. Bill Griffiths from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, who came up with the idea for the Alaska Water and Sewer Challenge (AKWSC), shared his desires to develop stronger exchanges with other Arctic nations and invite opportunities for new and international practices from around the world to directly benefit Alaska. “More than 3,500 homes in Alaska still lack water and sewer and many more rely on systems that are unaffordable to operate and replace. We need innovative approaches in order to address the health problems related to these issues,” Griffiths said in an article by the Arctic Sounder. (Casey Restino, “Arctic Ambassador addresses Native issues in Alaska hearing,” The Arctic Sounder, August 21, 2014).

Re-Locate LLC, working with research partners based at BOKU University in Vienna, Austria, conducted a comprehensive analysis of the in-home water systems that have been designed, installed, operated, and maintained by residents of Kivalina and the architectural, ecological, and social environments in which they function. Our AKWSC prototype is emerging, in part, out of this research and the situational understanding of existing, locally developed, water and sanitation solutions in Kivalina.

During Phase Two of the Challenge, Re-Locate LLC worked with our AKWSC team and rural Alaskan residents in Kivalina and Kongiganak to research and design prototype in-home water supply and sanitation systems that can operate across Alaska’s diverse ecological, social, and architectural environments.

Summit Consulting Services has fabricated and is testing our winning prototype system in a laboratory that Summit built specifically for the Challenge in Tok, where on-site engineers are monitoring the system’s performance. The system will be subject to freeze/thaw and various other stress and health tests during this early phase. Individuals from Kivalina and Kongiganak will visit the Tok lab this summer to see and use the system, evaluate its fit for village life, and suggest improvements. Our partners Agnew::Beck created a website that hosts information about the Challenge. Please visit the project website for details.

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