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Tribal Water Utility Resources for the COVID-19 Pandemic

Read the latest information from EPA about COVID-19 and water. The Tribal Infrastructure Task Force (ITF) is providing the following summary information on resources available to tribal utilities to support the operational needs of drinking water and wastewater systems.

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Tribal Water Sector Technical Assistance and Partnership Resources

Water and Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARN)

The EPA encourages coordination of tribal utilities through a Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN). If resource needs arise for any reason, the WARNs provide water and wastewater utilities with the means to quickly obtain help in the form of personnel, equipment, materials and associated services from other utilities to restore critical operations impacted during any type of emergency, big or small. Using the WARN approach to mutual aid and assistance, tribal drinking water and wastewater utilities are able to sign a single agreement covering issues such as indemnification, workers’ compensation, and reimbursement. Utilities can find contact information for their  WARN on each state's website or can contact EPA via email

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Funding and Financing

In addition to existing federal programs , the federal government is making resources available to water systems for funding and financing support as a result of the COVID–19 pandemic.

Housing and Urban Development

On April 3rd, 2020, the Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development announced availability of $200 million in COVID-19 Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) allocations from the CARES Act. View allocations to tribes (PDF). Additionally, HUD has expanded program eligibilities through a statutory and regulatory waiver available here (PDF).

HUD has also made available up to $100 million in ICDBG Imminent Threat (IT) funding. This funding is provided in the form of grants to eligible Indian tribes and must be used to prevent, prepare for, or respond to COVID-19. Additionally, HUD expanded program eligibilities through a statutory and regulator waiver available here (PDF).

Indian Health Service

On March 27, 2020, the Indian Health Service (IHS) issued a letter to tribal and urban Indian organization leaders announcing the availability of, and distribution decisions for, CARES Act and other funding. The IHS DSFC allocated funding towards

  • Provision of No Charge Temporary Water Access Points to increase access to water in homes without piped access
  • Provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including goggles and face masks, coveralls, gloves, and boots.
  • Rehabilitation of failed treatment and distribution equipment and provision of supplies to ensure continued operation of water and waste systems during the COVID-19 pandemic, where appropriate.
  • Repair of failed or non-operational individual water or sewer systems to ensure all tribal homes, including scattered or individual homes, have access to vital drinking water and essential wastewater services.

Guidance on Indian Health Service COVID-19 Funding Distribution for Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Urban Indian Organizations (PDF).

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Pandemic Incident Action Checklist

EPA’s Pandemic Incident Action Checklist is comprised of three different “rip & run” checklists that can help water utilities prepare for, respond to, and recover from a pandemic. Each checklist provides examples of actions that drinking water and wastewater systems can take. EPA conducted a tribal webinar on April 14, 2020 to present the checklist and resources for tribal utilities. Watch the webinar.Exit

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Water Operators as Essential Workers

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to tribal leaders requesting that water and wastewater workers, as well as the manufacturers and suppliers who provide vital services and materials to the water sector, are considered essential workers and businesses by state authorities when enacting restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The EPA has also provided a template that tribes, water utilities and technical assistance providers can use to provide documentation to workers that are considered essential.

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Additional Resources

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