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Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, Photo Credit: Zack Frank

Appalachian Community Technical Assistance and Training Program

The Appalachian Community Technical Assistance and Training (ACTAT) program provides free training and technical assistance to small Appalachian communities to proactively improve drinking water or wastewater services. The program is a partnership of West Virginia University’s National Environmental Services Center (NESC), the University of Kentucky’s KWRI, and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Hydraulics and Sedimentation Lab and is funded by the Rural Utilities Service, a division of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Program. The program uses the USDA and EPA's 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, technical assistance, and training activities to small communities in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee. 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.


ACTAT training is offered in three phases:

  1. Phase 1 – Multi-utility workshops help communities share lessons learned.

  2. Phase 2 – Individual utility trainings build a strategic plan for an individual utility.

  3. Phase 3 – Technical assistance targets items in a utilities strategic plan.

Registration and training fees are waived for all ACTAT training and technical assistance. Workshops focus on providing the drinking water and wastewater utilities resources, tools, and assistance to support their efforts to provide safe and dependable water service while strengthening operations. Communities participating in the program have the opportunity to focus their managerial priorities in the most critically needed areas to benefit their system performance. 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.

KWRI has also developed some additional training modules addressing technical priorities in Kentucky including:

  • How to Conduct a Water Audit Using the AWWA M36 Protocol and Software.

  • How to Build a Computer Model for Your Water Distribution System.

  • Water Operator Certification Exam Prep - Basic Mathematic Skills (coming soon)

  • Emerging Contaminants of Concern – from Source to Discharge (coming soon).

Additionally, KWRI customizes modules for a specific utility to provide one-on-one utility focused assistance.  Potential activities could involve, but are not limited to, helping the utility develop and calibrate a computer model of their water system or assistance in conducting a water audit using the AWWA M36 protocol and software.

Certified operators may receive up to 6 hours of continuing education credits for KWRI training as approved by the Kentucky Board of Certification of Wastewater System Operators and the Kentucky Board of Certification of Drinking Water Treatment and Distribution System Operators. The Kentucky Public Service Commission has historically approved the training workshops and modules for water commissioners to receive continuing education credit.



The ACTAT program focuses on the Appalachian Region targeting communities with a population of 2,500 or fewer where residents are living at less than 80 percent of the state non-metropolitan median household income; counties that are designated as ‘distressed’; and/or water utilities needing technical, financial, or managerial capacity improvements. The WIB training session has been conducted in-person and virtually at various locations in West Virginia and Kentucky.  Two regional WIB sessions have been held in Kentucky virtually and several have been held in person in the cities of Hazard, Olive Hill (Carter Caves), Morehead, and Somerset (Cumberland Valley).  At the request of individual utilities, KWRI provided the WIB training onsite and face-to-face with staff of those utilities in Tompkinsville, Fountain Run, Inez, Salt Lick, Irvine, and West Liberty. These workshops facilitate staff in completing a self-assessment of the utility’s performance in the ten key management areas, identifying their priorities, and development of a plan to improve one critical priorities of their choice.

Wastewater Worker doing Inspection

Who We Train

  • Small water system operators and managers

  • Local decision-makers (e.g., mayors, commissioners and board members)

  • Service personnel

Type of Training

  • Multi-utility Workshops

  • Individual Utility Training

  • Technical Assistance

  • Remote Training 

*All training is free of charge*

A flyer about the program is available for download here: ACTAT General Information Flyer


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