Story: The Alaska Water and Sewer Challenge spurs new ideas.

To improve the health of rural Alaska residents, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), in coordination with tribal, state and federal agencies, is spearheading a research and development effort to find better and more affordable ways to deliver drinking water and sewage disposal services to rural Alaska. As communities adapt to changing landscapes, decentralized systems will be more flexible than traditional piped systems. A core component of these systems is technology that allows clean water from the shower, bathroom sink and laundry to be used for washing, and recycled water for toilet flushing. The decentralized systems also use an in-home water treatment system to make rainwater, pond or river water or ice melt potable for drinking. Related to the Water and Sewer Challenge, the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation Greywater Recycling laboratory is testing four systems to clean and treat recycled water for washing; the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) is piloting the use of urine-diverting dry toilets in Kivalina; and Re-Locate is piloting a biochar reactor in Kivalina that will convert human waste to inert charcoal. The Alaska Rural Water and Sanitation Working Group of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission has also prepared a number of documents supporting improved water and sanitation in Alaska’s rural communities.

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