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The ANA Messenger - Spring Edition

Published: June 6, 2013
Social and Economic Development Strategies (SEDS), Environmental Regulatory Enhancement

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What Does a Well-Run Tribal Utility Look Like?

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Jennifer Wilson posted on April 22, 2013 14:05

The Tribal Utility Governance (TUG) training series is designed to help the managers of tribal water systems better understand how all the pieces of utility management fit together. Like other water systems, tribes often face competing pressures from the public they serve and the government that ultimately makes many decisions.

Effective and sustainable utility management requires that a holistic and long-term view serves as the broader context for short-term decision making. A federal government task force committed to working on tribal infrastructure issues states this goal:

Access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation shall be provided through entities that are sustainable and implemented through integrated agency planning that links the development goals of the tribe with the need for such services and infrastructure.

Such a large charge to water and wastewater systems means that heads must come together within the tribe to discuss the financial, managerial and technical issues. It is often the utility manager or another senior operator, who must serve as a leader to balance needs and facilitate understanding of all parties.

To assist with this important communication and education challenge, the task force prepared a short document that outlines commonalities and best practices of sustainable tribal utilities. I'm sure few would disagree that it is often the following recommendation is one of the most challenging:

Day-to-day management and funding for the utility should be isolated from politics, either through an independent utility board (e.g., NTUA, TOUA) which provides oversight and high-level direction, or a separate entity (e.g., ARUC).

However, this reference can serve as the perfect launch point for discussions that initiate baby steps in the right direction.

This article originally appeared at SmallWaterSupply.org on April 22, 2013. It is republished with permission.

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