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EPA's Role in Safe Drinking Water on Tribal Lands

Federal Partnerships

The EPA partners closely with agencies like the Indian Health Service to provide access to safe drinking water. The Indian Health Service is a partner in providing both technical assistance to tribes through the EPA Tribal Public Water System Supervision program, and in the design and construction of drinking water infrastructure through the EPA Drinking Water Infrastructure Grants – Tribal Set-Aside program. Both programs support compliance with provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act on tribal lands.

Tribal Drinking Water Access Measure

The EPA tribal drinking water access measure gauges progress in ensuring access to safe drinking water on tribal lands by assessing the number of American Indian and Alaskan Native homes that have been provided or restored access to safe drinking water, in coordination with other federal agencies. 

Fiscal Year Number of Homes Annual Result Cumulative (based on 2009 baseline of 80,900 homes)
2012 6,955 104,266
2013 4,615 108,881
2014 4,755 113.656
2015 8,821 123,477
2016 15,662 139,139
2017 14,526 153,665
2018 8,351 162,016
2019 3,679 165,695

The EPA tribal wastewater program access results can be found here.

Tribal Infrastructure Task Force

The EPA collaborates extensively with other federal agencies to ensure effective and efficient implementation of its tribal programs. An example of this is the Infrastructure Task Force (ITF). The primary focus of the ITF is to improve access to safe drinking water, basic sanitation and solid waste services in Indian country.

The federal partners participating in the task force include:

  • US Department of Agriculture (Rural Development);
  • US Environmental Protection Agency;
  • US Department of Health and Human Serviced (Indian Health Service);
  • US Department of Housing and Urban Development; and
  • US Department of the Interior (Bureau of Indian Affairs).

The agencies accomplish the goals of the ITF by coordinating federal efforts in delivering water infrastructure, wastewater infrastructure and solid waste management services to tribal communities. These lead to a streamlined approach to agency policies, regulations and directives. Streamlining reduces the administrative burden for tribal communities and facilitates access to funding.