Rainwater Harvesting in a Subarctic Community

Mercer N, Hanrahan M. Straight from the heavens into your bucket”: domestic rainwater harvesting as a measure to improve water security in a subarctic indigenous communityInternational journal of circumpolar health. 2017;76(1):1312223. doi: 10.1080/22423982.2017.1312223

BACKGROUND: 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.

OBJECTIVES: 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.

DESIGN: 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.

RESULTS: 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.

CONCLUSION: 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.

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