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University of Minnesota Extension

Helping solve wastewater challenges in Indian country


According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Native American and Alaska Native communities are more likely to lack access to wastewater services than any other population groups in the United States.

Wastewater management directly affects the health of Native people and their natural resources, which are inseparable from culture, traditions, and spirituality. The purpose of this 56-page guide is to provide 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. Download "Helping solve wastewater challenges in Indian country"

What you'll learn: table of contents

  1. Responsibilities of Indian health service and tribal governments
  2. What is wastewater and the cultural value of water?
  3. Risks to our way of life
  4. How is wastewater treated?
  5. How big a problem is this?
  6. What is the solution? Taking action

Four-phase process

Phase I: Generating a community wastewater assessment report

Phase II: Exploring options, standard septic systems types

Phase III: Choosing the most appropriate wastewater treatment system for your community

Phase IV: Implementing solutions

Tribal community wastewater case studies

Leech Lake Band, Onigum: a tribal-led process

Red Lake Nation: a tribal-led process


  1. Contact information for Indian health service area offices
  2. Assessing the operation and management of individual septic systems
  3. Tips for running an effective meeting
  4. Example of EPA-approved standard operating procedures for a well and septic system inventory
  5. Homeowner’s septic system questionnaire
  6. Septic system inspection form for homeowners
  7. Septic system inspection form for tribal wastewater professionals
  8. Sample lot sketch
  9. Example spreadsheet for community wastewater assessment reports
  10. Components of the community wastewater assessment
  11. Resources
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