Water and Sanitation

water drop

Basic water and sanitation services are important to overall health. Having in-home running water and flush toilets help to keep people healthy. These services reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

Today, nearly all U.S. homes have these modern sanitation services. However, not all Alaskans have access to these same basic services. This ranks Alaska last among U.S. states for provision of in-home sanitation services.

Within Alaska, the provision of basic sanitation services is much lower in rural regions. About 60% of Alaska Native people live in rural villages. Nearly one out of three rural Alaskan villages do not have running water in the majority of homes; although all villages provide safe drinking water. Studies done by AIP show that the lack of in-home water and sanitation services in this region is related to infectious disease health problems in this region. These health challenges include:

  • Dental cavities
  • Respiratory illnesses, such as infant pneumonia and RSV infection
  • Skin infections
  • Severe bacterial infections such as in the bloodstream and spinal fluid

Not having running water in the home is probably linked to these infections because water is conserved for cooking and is less available for hand washing and bathing. Handwashing and bathing are important ways to reduce spread of infectious diseases among family members and close contacts. AIP works with its partners to identify ways to improve access to in-home running water and to assess the health benefits of these services. Two examples of these partnerships are the Alaska Rural Water and Sanitation Working GroupExternal and the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Along with the State of Alaska and other federal partners, CDC cosponsored an international conference in 2016 called “Water Innovations for Healthy Arctic Homes (WIHAH)External.”