Need: To bring low-cost water and sanitation improvements to homes in Alaska Native villages without access to piped water or sewer systems.
Intervention: The Portable Alternative Sanitation System (PASS) treats hauled water, provides for handwashing with clean water, and disposes waste without traditional piping.
Results: Residents in the pilot project reported that PASS was cleaner and healthier than the self-haul method.
In the Alaska Native village of
Kivalina in the northwestern part of the state,
residents' houses have no piped water or sewer system. A
lack of piped water to the home results in severe
rationing and water reuse practices such as handwashing
in soiled basin water. Toilets consist of a five-gallon
bucket with a trash bag inside, and residents haul their
own waste to the landfill. This lack of available
sanitation and potential exposure to sewage can lead to
water contamination and health concerns.
To address this lack of plumbing, the Alaska Native Tribal Health
Consortium (ANTHC), along with the Cold Climate
Housing Research Center and Lifewater Engineering and
Camp Water Industries, designed the Portable Alternative
Sanitation System (PASS). PASS is a low-cost water and
sanitation system that does not require traditional
piping. The portable components allow the system to be
moved if the homeowner has to relocate due to climate
impacts, such as permafrost melt, erosion, or flooding.
Water treatment system to ensure safe drinking water
for the home
50- or 100-gallon water storage tank
Low-flow sink and waterless urinal
Toilet that separates solid waste from liquid
Ventilation system to dry out
solid waste, eliminating odor and easing the hauling-out
August 2016 marked the first completed year of the
Kivalina PASS pilot project, in which nine households
participated. Residents reported that PASS was healthier,
cleaner, and less work-intensive than the previous "honey
bucket" self-hauling system.
In March 2019, the PASS project went into its full
manufacturing phase. In 2019-2020, 24 additional units in
Kivalina and 21 in Mertarvik, the relocation village of
Newtok, have been installed.
PASS 2.0 has been reengineered and installed in 6 rural
communities that lack piped infrastructure: Kivalina,
Oscarville, Mertarvik, Chalkyitsik, Allakaket, and
In 2020, the PASS partners designed a
Mini-PASS, which provides a handwashing station and a
vented honey bucket. This system fills the gap of space
constraints in rural Alaskan homes. The toilet does not
have the seepage pit, but it still has the ventilation
drying component. With funding from a private donor, the
CDC Foundation was able to fund the installation of over
350 units in 15 Alaskan communities.
Acquiring funding to design and pilot this innovative
system was challenging, since traditional funders want to
see the project be successful before they invest. In
addition, remote logistic challenges and high
transportation costs complicate any response to needs
within the community.
While the systems provide a significant improvement over
current water and sanitation practices in unpiped homes,
PASS is still an intermediate step toward providing full
water and sewer systems for all Alaska Native
In order to replicate this project successfully, a team
needs to build good rapport with community members and
ensure that onsite training is adequate and comprehensive
so that residents are able to operate and maintain the
systems with very little assistance.
Another component is setting up a response system that
includes local labor knowledgeable about the system.
ANTHC hires local labor to help install the systems and
recommends setting up an informal system where homeowners
are able to call locally and receive help with
troubleshooting, maintenance, and repairs.
Mia Heavener, Civil Engineer
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC)
American Indian or Alaska Native
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information
about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The
programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural
community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s
needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep
in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.