Forty-two communities in rural Alaska are considered unserved or underserved with water and sewer infrastructure. Many challenges exist to provide centralized piped water and sewer infrastructure to the homes, and they are exacerbated by decreasing capital funding. Unserved communities in rural Alaska experience higher rates of disease, supporting the recommendation that sanitation infrastructure should be provided. Organizations are pursuing alternative solutions to conventional piped water and sewer in order to maximize water use and reuse for public health. This paper reviews initiatives led by the State of Alaska, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, and the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation to identify and develop potential long-term solutions appropriate and acceptable to rural communities. Future developments will likely evolve based on the lessons learned from the initiatives. Recommendations include Alaska-specific research needs, increased end-user participation in the design process, and integrated monitoring, evaluation, and information dissemination in future efforts.
Black Tickle-Domino is an extremely water-insecure remote Inuit community in the Canadian subarctic that lacks piped-water. Drinking water consumption in the community is less than a third of the Canadian national average. Water insecurity in the community contributes to adverse health, economic, and social effects and requires urgent action.
To test the ability of domestic rainwater harvesting (DRWH) for the first time in the subarctic with the goal of improving water access and use in the community.
This project utilised quantitative weekly reporting of water collection and use, as well as focus group discussions. DRWH units were installed at seven water-insecure households chosen by the local government. Results were measured over a 6-week period in 2016.
Participants harvested 19.07 gallons of rainwater per week. General purpose water consumption increased by 17% and water retrieval efforts declined by 40.92%. Households saved $12.70 CDN per week. Participants reported perceived improvements to psychological health. Because no potable water was collected, drinking water consumption did not increase. The study identified additional water-insecurity impacts.
DRWH cannot supply drinking water without proper treatment and filtration; however, it can be a partial remedy to water insecurity in the subarctic. DRWH is appropriately scaled, inexpensive, and participants identified several significant benefits.