Rainwater Harvesting Systems as a Measure to Improve Drinking Water Access in a Remote Water-Insecure Indigenous Community

Lay Summary 

The current project aims to turn the results of previous research on the impacts of water-insecurity into community-based action by implementing a small-scale water security pilot project in the Southern Inuit island community of Black Tickle-Domino, which is extremely water-insecure. The project aims to increase drinking water access by increasing access to general purpose water, thus allowing people to direct efforts to drinking water retrieval. We will provide and install ten rainwater harvesting systems (RWH) in Black Tickle and work with local residents to measure and record indicators of project impacts. We hope that RWH will help householders to concentrate their water retrieval efforts on drinking water.

The average Canadian resident consumes approximately 325 litres of freshwater daily; in contrast, residents of Black-Tickle Domino, a remote Southern Inuit s community in Labrador, consume only 120 litres of freshwater per day. The community has no access to piped water; furthermore, the community's only water treatment unit is inconveniently located and expensive to access, meaning residents often have to rely on unmonitored and unreliable water sources (shared community wells, ponds, springs, ice, etc.). Residents of the community are required to spend upwards of three hours everyday retrieving general-purpose and drinking water for their families. Therefore, drinking water access in the community is compromised and expensive, severely compromising water-intake and individual and community, and serving as an obstacle to economic development.

Previous research has determined that water insecurity (poor access, affordability, and quality of drinking water) in the community has significant mental stress and physical health implications; for instance, residents constantly worry over water supply, regularly experience musculoskeletal problems due to physically-demanding water retrieval efforts, and those with chronic health conditions (i.e. Type 2 diabetes) are often unable to follow basic medical advice, such as to drink plenty of water.

The research project will employ a "mixed-methods" approach - we will measure changes in drinking water consumption as a result of RWH and we will measure financial and economic savings in terms of reduced water retrieval efforts. A number of focus groups, as well as interviews, will also be held in the community. This will follow previous research and respond to identified community concerns, such as the mental stress implications of poor drinking water access, and to determine how RHW has improved the situation.

Key partners of the current project include the NunatuKavut Community Council, the Indigenous political organization of which the community is a member, as well as the Black-Tickle Domino Local Service District. Lessons generated from the project will be applicable for other remote water-insecure Newfoundland and Labrador communities and beyond, particularly other Inuit and Indigenous communities in the Canadian sub-Arctic and the Arctic, which are often compromised in terms of water security.

The project report can be read in full here.

Environmental Policy Institute
Harris Centre - RBC Water Research And Outreach Fund
Black Tickle
Newfoundland and Labrador
Aboriginal Peoples
Water Resources
Water Supply
Industry Sectors 
Water, Sewage and Other Systems
Start date 
1 Jul 2016