Ritter TL, Lopez ED, Goldberger R, Dobson J, Hickel K, Smith J, Johnson RM, Bersamin A. Consuming untreated water in four southwestern Alaska Native communities: reasons revealed and recommendations for change. Journal of Environmental Health. 2014 Dec;77(5):8-13; quiz 52.
In this article, the authors provide the first in-depth account of why some Alaska Native people drink untreated water when treated water is available. Their qualitative research was conducted in four Alaska Native village communities that have treated water available from a centralized distribution point. Most respondents (n = 172; 82%) reported that some of their household’s drinking water came from an untreated source. Motives for drinking untreated water emerged from analysis of open-ended questions about drinking water practice and could be categorized into six themes: chemicals, taste, health, access, tradition, and cost. Importantly, some residents reported consuming untreated water because they both liked untreated water and disliked treated water. As such, interventions to increase safe water consumption should address this dichotomy by providing education about the benefits of treated water alongside the risks involved with drinking untreated water. Based on the findings, the authors provide specific recommendations for developing behavior change interventions that address influences at multiple social-ecological levels.