Award Number

Project Abstract

Even when it exists, formal water infrastructure in rural Alaska often fails to provide an adequate level of service to Alaskan households and communities. Operating water infrastructure in the Arctic is particularly difficult due to the unique coupling between the engineered systems and the unusually extreme challenges from social and natural systems. The small and remote nature of communities present unusual logistical, financial, and workforce challenges, while an extreme and changing climate further complicates the technical work needed to operate and maintain the systems. Accordingly, this project integrates knowledge of the water service challenges, data needs, and workforce issues experienced by Arctic communities and develop approaches to address these challenges and needs with appropriate strategies. Results from the needs assessment are used in teaching modules, and the knowledge generated is being used to develop an educational phone and tablet app that can be used as a tool available for utilities in public outreach. Broadly, this project is reducing uncertainty surrounding the operations of Arctic water infrastructure under conditions of climate change, and in doing so identifies new places where research is urgently needed.

Enabled by semi-structured interviews and focus groups, this planning grant is designed to forefront Alaskan community member and utility operator knowledge. The team is visiting three communities in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta to gather knowledge from individuals with diverse expertise, including treatment plant operators and the general public. Data are being transcribed and analyzed using emergent qualitative analysis to objectively explore questions discovered through a local needs assessment. Further, through team development using the Delphi method and concept modeling exercises, this grant is creating the research community needed to identify and address systemic problems facing Arctic water infrastructure and the people who use them. Knowledge is being returned to participating communities through professional organizations, anchor institutions, and public outreach.

Logistics Summary

This collaborative project between Faust (2022666, U of Texas) and Kaminsky (2022177, UW) aims to develop a needs assessment of the water supply systems in Arctic regions. Beginning in 2021-2022 a field team of 3 will travel to the Alaskan communities of Bethel, Kasigluk, and Nunapitchchuk to engage in semi-structured interviews with people living in there, as well as hold public focus groups.

Season Field Site
2021 Alaska - Bethel
2021 Alaska - Kasigluk
2021 Alaska - Nunapitchuk
2022 Alaska - Bethel
2022 Alaska - Kasigluk
2022 Alaska - Nunapitchuk

Project Location




Bethel, AK; Kasigluk, AK; Nunapitchuk, AK


Principal Investigator

Kasey Faust
University of Texas at Austin

Principal Investigator

Jessica Kaminsky
University of Washington