Nanwalek is rapidly running out of water. Low snowpack and little rainfall has led the Kenai Peninsula village to declare a water emergency.
The predominantly Alutiiq village on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula is only accessible by air and water.
Priscilla Evans of the Nanwalek IRA Council said the roughly 55 households are getting desperate as the village’s reservoir is poised to run out.
“We never made a plan for this kind of emergency for the water,” she said. “So hopefully the state is going to help us out.”
The village has tried to conserve. Water has been shut off at night. Chugachmiut, a regional nonprofit, and the North Pacific Rim Housing Authority donated roughly 200 cases of water last week.
Evans said a fellow member of the village’s tribal council went looking for an alternative source.
“He found a stream, so he walked up the mountain and rerouted the stream to the dam, and that’s drying up now,” she said.
The village declared a water emergency on Tuesday. But Evans said if there’s no significant rainfall this week, they could be completely dry by this weekend.
“It’s mainly making everybody kind of worried and scared,” she said.
The state has issued a boil water notice.
“I get involved when the water may not be adequately treated,” said Jamie Bjorkman of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation in Soldotna. “Knowing that they were having low levels in their water storage tanks means that the water treatment plant and the treatment that they provide to the water may not be a completed process.”
Tribal Administrator Gwen Kvasnikoff said water pressure has been steadily dropping. So far no one has reported getting ill from the alternative sources or low pressure. But she warned that the village is on borrowed time as supplies run low.
“Even the bottled water has been depleted,” she said. “So we do have elders that depend on water with their health issues. And then we have newborn babies here, so we were in need of water very much.”
It’s not the first time Nanwalek has had to ration water. In 2003, the state barged in bottled supplies.
Alaska’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said it is closely monitoring the situation. But the state agency was noncommittal about what it plans to do if the village of 250-odd people indeed runs dry.
The agency is also monitoring a similar situation in Chignik Lagoon, a village on the Alaska Peninsula.