By Keli James, PR communications coordinatorIn Focus1

Rural Community Assistance Corporation’s Tribal Circuit Rider Program provides hands-on technical assistance and training to Native Americans tribes to ensure members have access to safe drinking water.

“Small tribal water systems need the assistance and professional support that RCAC provides to continue our efforts to provide clean and safe drinking water to our tribe and set us on a path toward sustainability,” said Robert Marquez, tribal chairman, Cold Springs Rancheria of Mono Indians of California.

For more than 20 years, RCAC has provided ongoing, dedicated training and technical assistance to California and Arizona tribes to build their capacity to provide safe water in accordance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act.

The work occurs primarily in the field, using a “circuit rider” approach. RCAC circuit riders provide about 800 technical assistance/training visits to tribal communities annually, working on an as -called basis to meet tribal needs. To augment field training, RCAC conducts 10 to 15 workshops and several extended courses annually.

To better serve tribes, RCAC formed the Native American Water Masters Association (NAWMA) and in1995, RCAC worked with Southern California tribes to form the first NAWMA group. RCAC facilitates NAWMA’s quarterly meetings that bring together regional tribal staff and agencies to share common issues related to their water/wastewater systems, receive training and build internal capacity to create stronger utilities.

With financial support from multiple agencies NAWMA has expanded to include20 active NAWMA groups that continue to meet throughout the country. NAWMA groups are located in EPA Regions 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. “Without the assistance provided by RCAC we would have had a difficult time addressing our recent drinking water and wastewater issues on our reservation,” said Gabriella Rubalcava, environmental assistant, Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians.

For more information about RCAC’s environmental programs go here -> http://www.rcac.org/pages/126