Funded by the Rural Utilities Service ( RUS), a division of the US Department of Agriculture ( USDA) Rural Development Program, the ACTAT program is a partnership between West Virginia University (WVU), the University of Kentucky (UKY), and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK). The program provides customized, face-to-face training and technical assistance to small Appalachian communities burdened by inadequate water services.
Community assistance typically begins with training focused on 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.
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;” or have water systems requiring technical, financial, or managerial capacity improvements. The goal of the ACTAT program is to help under-resourced, small communities become sustainable, eligible to receive financial resources to address water infrastructure deficiencies, and provide a reliable resource to support community economic growth.
ACTAT differs from traditional utility training and technical assistance by the ability to leverage the wide variety of expertise within land-grant universities including engineering, extension, public health, finance and management, community and economic development, and legal disciplines. Teams of trainers and technical subject matter experts offer workshop participants follow-up assistance and services to develop and implement system improvement plans. 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, supported by viable water infrastructure systems.
ACTAT’s approach offers small communities another alternative for state-of-the-art technical assistance and training free of cost. Without such programs, the gap between viable water systems and failing or marginal systems will continue to grow with economic and social inequities accompanying them.