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Funded by the Rural Utilities Service ( RUS), a division of the US Department ofAgriculture ( USDA) Rural Development Program, the ACTAT program is a partnership of the National Environmental Services Center ( NESC), the University of Kentucky’s ( UKY) Water Resources Research Institute ( KWRRI), and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s ( UTK) Hydraulics & Sedimentation Lab ( HSL). The program provides customized, face-to-face training and technical assistance to small Appalachian communities burdened by inadequate water services.

ACTAT training begins with the Rural and Small Systems Guidebook to Sustainable System Management and the companion Workshop in a Box: Sustainable Management of Rural and Small Systems Workshop (WIB) as a basis to provide outreach, training, technical assistance, and community water infrastructure improvement activities to small communities in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Target participants include small system operators and managers; local decision-makers such as mayors, county commissioners, and water board members; and service personnel.

The ACTAT approach differs from traditional utility training and technical assistance approaches in its ability to leverage the wide variety of expertise within land-grant universities including engineering, extension, public health, finance and management, social, and legal disciplines. The team of trainers and technical assistance providers offer follow-up activities and technical assistance services to workshop participants to develop and implement system improvement plans. ACTAT focuses on Appalachian communities with populations less than 2,500 and have median household incomes less than 80% of the state nonmetropolitan average; are designated “distressed;” and/or needing drinking water/wastewater systems requiring technical, financial, or managerial capacity improvements. The goal of the ACTAT program is to help under-resourced, small communities become sustainable and eligible to receive financial resources to address their vulnerable water infrastructure, a first-step towards community economic growth.

By focusing on each community’s Appalachian context and needs, ACTAT promotes community-driven actions to address community-specific concerns about operating and managing water systems. Our vision is to enhance economic development in small, rural communities of the region, by providing viable water infrastructure systems. To do so, we will:

  • Address current operational and managerial needs of water systems through clear, understandable educational and technical support;
  • Improve each water system’s sustainability through one-on-one interactions; and
  • Foster employment and economic development opportunities through assistance in providing a viable infrastructure base.

ACTAT’s approach offers small communities a free alternative for state-of-the-art technical assistance and training. Without such programs, the gap between viable water systems and failing or marginal systems will continue to grow with economic inequities accompanying them.