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In the summer of 2022, the UNC EFC began a research project regarding decentralized users (those on private wells and septic systems) in North Carolina, supported by funding from the NC Collaboratory. This research was a new venture for the UNC EFC, which has historically focused on centralized water systems. The result of the year-long project is this guidebook, which is intended to give insight into the needs of these decentralized users in North Carolina. The guidebook synthesizes community stories and a robust body of literature to provide background on these users in the state of North Carolina; reviews historic and ongoing practices of discrimination that create areas lacking centralized water and sewer services; and explains barriers to centralization, including costs of connection. The UNC EFC conducts a spatial analysis to demonstrate the identification of decentralized users in Wake County, describing the methods thoroughly to encourage wider application throughout the state.

The long-term advocacy and scholarship of others support many of the ideas presented here. This guidebook is an entry point to learning more about the issues, stories, and policies impacting decentralized users. Some topics, such as funding streams and specific policy interpretations, may change with time. The UNC EFC hopes that this guidebook will serve as a resource for organizations and individuals who aim to support and improve the health and well-being of these decentralized users. The UNC EFC looks forward to using this guide as a starting point for developing additional supportive resources for decentralized users.


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