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Collaboration Can Help Address the Indigenous Water Crisis

By Prof. Sherilee Harper, Department of Population Medicine, and M.Sc. student Carlee Wright

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in The Conversation Canada.

How often do you think about the water that comes out of your tap — where it comes from, how it’s treated or whether it’s safe for you to drink?

If you’re living in an urban area, likely not often. But for many people living in Indigenous communities in Canada, it’s quite a different story — one of insufficient water quantity and poor water quality.

Access to safe drinking water in Indigenous communities is a human rights issue that has been on the agenda of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for years. But the existing water challenges are complex and require multiple solutions.

Community-led research can help. Research that’s driven by Indigenous peoples can help to identify the causes of poor water quality in specific areas and to design appropriate interventions. One research project that we worked on with Inuit colleagues in Rigolet, Labrador, is a great example revealing that simple management practices can help to keep drinking water containers from becoming contaminated.

Unsafe drinking water

In some Inuit communities in Nunavut, drinking water is delivered to household storage tanks by truck. This results in a limited supply, and people often need to ration this water, sometimes reporting that they run out before their next refill.

The Inuit community of Rigolet, N.L. (photo credit: Carlee Wright)

Besides insufficient water, unsafe drinking water is a major concern. The number of boil water advisories (meaning that the municipal water has not met water quality guidelines) in First Nations communities is more than double that of non-Indigenous communities in Canada.

Read the entire article on the University of Guelph website