Challenges and Opportunities for Tribal Waters: Addressing Disparities in Safe Public Drinking Water on the Crow Reservation in Montana, US
Doyle, John T.
Real Bird, James
Eggers, Margaret J.
Camper, Anne K.
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Disparities in access to safe public drinking water are increasingly being recognized as contributing to health disparities and environmental injustice for vulnerable communities in the United States. As the Co-Directors of the Apsaálooke Water and Wastewater Authority (AWWWA) for the Crow Tribe, with our academic partners, we present here the multiple and complex challenges we have addressed in improving and maintaining tribal water and wastewater infrastructure, including the identification of diverse funding sources for infrastructure construction, the need for many kinds of specialized expertise and long-term stability of project personnel, ratepayer difficulty in paying for services, an ongoing legacy of inadequate infrastructure planning, and lack of water quality research capacity. As a tribal entity, the AWWWA faces additional challenges, including the complex jurisdictional issues affecting all phases of our work, lack of authority to create water districts, and additional legal and regulatory gaps—especially with regards to environmental protection. Despite these obstacles, the AWWWA and Crow Tribe have successfully upgraded much of the local water and wastewater infrastructure. We find that ensuring safe public drinking water for tribal and other disadvantaged U.S. communities will require comprehensive, community-engaged approaches across a broad range of stakeholders to successfully address these complex legal, regulatory, policy, community capacity, and financial challenges.
Doyle JT, L Kindness, J Realbird, MJ Eggers, AK Camper, “Challenges and Opportunities for Tribal Waters: Addressing Disparities in Safe Public Drinking Water on the Crow Reservation in Montana, US,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, March 2018; 15(4): E567. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15040567.