An Analysis of Rainwater from Rural Alaska Catchments: Findings and Recommendations for Healthy Utilization

Lead Author Elizabeth, King
Institution Contact University of Alaska, Anchorage
Co-Authors Elizabeth Hodges-Snyder, University of Alaska, Anchorage, USA Aaron Dotson, University of Alaska, Anchorage, USA Nancy Nix, University of Alaska, Anchorage, USA
Theme Theme 4: Building Long-term Human Capacity
Session Name 4.4 Circumpolar Health and Well-Being
Datetime Wed, Sep 14, 2016 11:00 AM - 11:15 AM
Presentation Type Oral
Abstract text As in many regions of the arctic, residents in rural Alaska often do not have access to in-home piped water. Residents without in-home piped water are at an increased risk of infections such as pneumonia and skin infections due to a lack of access to sufficient quantities of water for washing. Examining the quality of rainwater, a commonly used and inexpensive supplemental water source is necessary to determine if it is reasonable from a public health standpoint to promote the best uses of rainwater as a supplemental source of water. Utilizing citizen science to recruit and train volunteers allowed for the collection of rainwater samples from difficult to reach rural villages across Alaska on a minimal budget.
The goal of this project was to characterize the quality of rainwater in rural Alaska. In this pilot project, 21 rainwater samples were collected from catchments in 10 communities in rural Alaska and tested for 29 substances or properties. The most common findings included concentrations of manganese, sodium, and zinc, and one sample contained a result above the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) primary Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) for drinking water quality. One of the primary recommendations from this research is for the creation of non-potable water quality standards. The lack of guidelines for non-potable water utilization inhibits public health professionals with the State of Alaska - Health and Social Services department from advocating for the use of water that could otherwise potentially reduce infection rates and improve health. Additionally, education around mechanisms and techniques for storing and maintaining high quality water as well as documentation around how rainwater is currently being utilized should be addressed in future studies on the rainwater in rural arctic environments.
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