Skip to main content

Participatory Modeling of Water Vulnerability in Remote Alaskan Households Using Causal Loop Diagrams

Abstract

Despite perceptions of high water availability, adequate access to sufficient water resources remains a major challenge in Alaska. This paper uses a participatory modeling approach to investigate household water vulnerability in remote Alaska and to examine factors that affect water availability and water access. Specifically, the work asks: how do water policy stakeholders conceptualize the key processes that affect household water vulnerability in the context of rural Alaska? Fourteen water policy stakeholders participated in the modeling process, which included defining the problem of household water vulnerability and constructing individual causal loop diagrams (CLDs) that represent their conceptualization of household water vulnerability. Individual CLDs were subsequently combined and five sub-models emerged: environmental, economic, infrastructure, social, and health. The environmental and economic sub-models of the CLD are explored in depth. In the environmental sub-model, climate change and environmental barriers due to geography influence household water vulnerability. In the economic sub-model, four processes and one feedback loop affect household water vulnerability, including operations and maintenance funding, the strength of the rural Alaskan economy, and the impact of regulations. To overcome household water vulnerability and make households more resilient, stakeholders highlighted policy solutions under five themes: economics, social, regulatory, technological, and environmental.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Data Availability

Additional figures provided in Supplementary Information.

Code Availability

Vensim.

References

  1. Achterkamp MC, Vos JFJ (2007) Critically identifying stakeholders evaluating boundary critique as a vehicle for stakeholder identification. Syst Res Behav Sci 24(1):3–14. https://doi.org/10.1002/sres.760

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. AK DEC (2019) Alaska water and sewer challenge. Retrieved from Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Water website: https://dec.alaska.gov/water/water-sewer-challenge/rural-communities/

  3. Alessa L, Altaweel M, Kliskey A, Bone C, Schnabel W, Stevenson K (2011) Alaska’s freshwater resources: issues affecting local and international interests. JAWRA J Am Water Resour Assoc 47(1):143–157. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-1688.2010.00498.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Alessa L, Kliskey A, Lammers R, Arp C, White D, Hinzman L, Busey R (2008) The Arctic Water Resource Vulnerability Index: an integrated assessment tool for community resilience and vulnerability with respect to freshwater. Environ Manag 42(3):523–541. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-008-9152-0

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. AMAP (2017) Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic (AACA) - Bering/Chukchi/Beaufort Region Overview report. AMAP, Oslo

  6. Biggs EM, Duncan JMA, Atkinson PM, Dash J (2013) Plenty of water, not enough strategy. How inadequate accessibility, poor governance and a volatile government can tip the balance against ensuring water security: the case of Nepal. Environ Sci Policy 33:388–394. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2013.07.004

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Blair P, Buytaert W (2016) Socio-hydrological modelling: a review asking “why, what and how?”. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 20(1):443–478. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-20-443-2016

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bressler JM, Hennessy TW (2018) Results of an Arctic Council survey on water and sanitation services in the Arctic. Int J Circumpolar Health. https://doi.org/10.1080/22423982.2017.1421368

  9. Brewis A, Choudhary N, Wutich A (2019) Household water insecurity may influence common mental disorders directly and indirectly through multiple pathways: evidence from Haiti. Soc Sci Med. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112520

  10. Brewis A, Rosinger A, Wutich A, Adams E, Cronk L, Pearson A, Young S (2019) Water sharing, reciprocity, and need: a comparative study of interhousehold water transfers in sub-Saharan Africa. Econ Anthropol. https://doi.org/10.1002/sea2.12143

  11. Bryson JM, Crosby BC (2006) Leadership for the common good. In Creating a culture of collaboration: The International Association of Facilitators handbook, San Francisco, CA, USA (pp. 367–396). Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=2006-11028-018&site=ehost-live&scope=site

  12. Bureš V (2017) A method for simplification of complex group causal loop diagrams based on endogenisation, encapsulation and order-oriented reduction. Systems 5(3):46. https://doi.org/10.3390/systems5030046

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Butler C, Adamowski J (2015) Empowering marginalized communities in water resources management: addressing inequitable practices in Participatory Model Building. J Environ Manag 153:153–162. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2015.02.010

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Chevalier J, Buckles D (2013) Handbook for participatory action research, planning and evaluation. SAS2 Dialogue Ott 41:168–187. https://doi.org/10.1136/jech.2004.028662

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Cooper-Vince CE, Kakuhikire B, Vorechovska D, McDonough AQ, Perkins J, Venkataramani AS, Tsai AC (2017) Household water insecurity, missed schooling, and the mediating role of caregiver depression in rural Uganda. Global Mental Health, 4(e15). https://doi.org/10.1017/gmh.2017.14

  16. Daley K, Castleden H, Jamieson R, Furgal C, Ell L (2014) Municipal water quantities and health in Nunavut households: an exploratory case study in Coral Harbour, Nunavut, Canada. Int J Circumpolar Health, 73(0). https://doi.org/10.3402/ijch.v73.23843

  17. Daley K, Jamieson R, Rainham D, Hansen LT (2018) Wastewater treatment and public health in Nunavut: a microbial risk assessment framework for the Canadian Arctic. Environ Sci Pollut Res 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-8566-8

  18. DCCED-DCRA (2017) Alaska mapping business plan. https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/dcra/PlanningLandManagement/RiskMAP/AlaskaMappingBusinessPlan.aspx

  19. Dudarev AA, Dushkina EV, Sladkova YN, Alloyarov PR, Chupakhin VS, Dorofeyev VM, Nilsson LM (2013) Food and water security issues in Russia II: water security in general population of Russian Arctic, Siberia and Far East, 2000–2011. Int J Circumpolar Health 72(1):22646. https://doi.org/10.3402/ijch.v72i0.22646

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Eakin H, Lerner AM, Manuel-Navarrete D, Hernández Aguilar B, Martínez-Canedo A, Tellman B, Bojórquez-Tapia L (2016) Adapting to risk and perpetuating poverty: Household’s strategies for managing flood risk and water scarcity in Mexico City. Environ Sci Policy 66, 324–333. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2016.06.006

  21. Eichelberger L (2017) Household water insecurity and its cultural dimensions: preliminary results from Newtok, Alaska. Environ Sci Pollut Res 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-9432-4

  22. Eichelberger L (2019) Recognizing the dynamics of household water insecurity in the rapidly changing polar north: expected uncertainties in access, quality, and consumption patterns in Niugtaq (Newtok), Alaska. World Dev Perspect. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wdp.2019.100148

  23. Eichelberger LP (2010) Living in utility scarcity: energy and water insecurity in Northwest Alaska. Am J Public Health 100(6):1010–1018. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2009.160846

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Falkenmark M (2001) The greatest water problem: the inability to link environmental security, water security and food security. Int J Water Resour Dev 17(4):539–554. https://doi.org/10.1080/07900620120094073

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Goldhar C, Bell T, Wolf J (2014) Vulnerability to freshwater changes in the Inuit settlement region of Nunatsiavut, Labrador: a case study from Rigolet. Arctic 67(1):71–83. https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic4365

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Goldhar C, Bell T, Wolf J (2013) Rethinking existing approaches to water security in remote communities: an analysis of two drinking water systems in Nunatsiavut, Labrador, Canada. Water Alternatives 6(3):462–486

    Google Scholar 

  27. Gupta J, Pahl-Wostl C, Zondervan R (2013) “Glocal” water governance: a multi-level challenge in the anthropocene. Curr Opin Environ Sustain 5:573–580. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2013.09.003

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Halbe J, Pahl-Wostl C, Sendzimir J, Adamowski J (2013) Towards adaptive and integrated management paradigms to meet the challenges of water governance. Water Sci Technol. https://doi.org/10.2166/wst.2013.146

  29. Hanrahan M, Sarkar A, Hudson A (2016) Water insecurity in indigenous Canada: a community-based inter-disciplinary approach. Water Qual Res J Can 51(3):270–281. https://doi.org/10.2166/wqrjc.2015.010

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Hanrahan M, Sarkar A, Hudson A, Bates P, Beaumier MC, Ford JD, Young TK (2014) Exploring water insecurity in a northern indigenous community in Canada: the never-ending job of the Southern Inuit of Black Tickle, Labrador. Arct Anthropol 51(2):9–22.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Harper SL, Edge VL, Ford J, Thomas MK, Pearl DL, Shirley J, McEwen SA (2015) Acute gastrointestinal illness in two Inuit communities: burden of illness in Rigolet and Iqaluit, Canada. Epidemiol Infect 143(14):3048–3063. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0950268814003744

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Healey GK, Magner KM, Issaluk B, Mackenzie K (2011) Community perspectives on the impact of climate change on health in Nunavut, Canada Arctic 64(1):89–97

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Hendriksen K (2019) Personal communication with Kare Hendriksen.

  34. Hennessy TW, Bressler JM (2016) Improving health in the Arctic region through safe and affordable access to household running water and sewer services: an Arctic Council initiative. Int J Circumpolar Health 75:31149. https://doi.org/10.3402/ijch.v75.31149

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Hennessy TW, Ritter T, Holman RC, Bruden DL, Yorita KL, Bulkow L, Smith J (2008) The relationship between in-home water service and the risk of respiratory tract, skin, and gastrointestinal tract infections among rural Alaska natives. Am J Public Health 98(11):2072–2078. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2007.115618

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Inam A, Adamowski J, Halbe J, Prasher S (2015) Using causal loop diagrams for the initialization of stakeholder engagement in soil salinity management in agricultural watersheds in developing countries: a case study in the Rechna Doab watershed, Pakistan. J Environ Manag 152:251–267. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2015.01.052

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Jepson W (2014) Measuring ‘no-win’ waterscapes: Experience-based scales and classification approaches to assess household water security in colonias on the US-Mexico border. Geoforum 51:107–120. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2013.10.002

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Ventana Systems, Inc (2015) Vensim PLE software. https://vensim.com/download/

  39. Kløve B, Kvitsand HML, Pitkänen T, Gunnarsdottir MJ, Gaut S, Gardarsson SM, Miettinen I (2017) Overview of groundwater sources and water-supply systems, and associated microbial pollution, in Finland, Norway and Iceland. Hydrogeol J 25(4):1033–1044. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10040-017-1552-x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Linton J (2014) Modern water and its discontents: a history of hydrosocial renewal. Wiley Interdiscip Rev: Water 1:111–120. https://doi.org/10.1002/wat2.1009

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Malard JJ, Adamowski JF, Rojas DM, Carrera J, Gálvez J, Monadres H (2015) Use of participatory system dynamics modelling to assess the sustainability of smallholder agriculture. In American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual International Meeting 2015, 4, 3432–3440. https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.1.4545.1602

  42. Martin D, Bélanger D, Gosselin P, Brazeau J, Furgal C, Déry S (2007) Drinking water and potential threats to human health in nunavik: adaptation strategies under climate change conditions. Arctic 60(2):195–202. https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic244

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Medeiros AS, Wood P, Wesche SD, Bakaic M, Peters JF (2017) Water security for northern peoples: review of threats to Arctic freshwater systems in Nunavut, Canada. Regional Environ Change 17(3):635–647. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-1084-2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Medema W, Wals A, Adamowski J (2014) Multi-loop social learning for sustainable land and water governance: towards a research agenda on the potential of virtual learning platforms. NJAS Wagening J Life Sci 69:23–38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.njas.2014.03.003

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Mitchell RK, Agle BR, Wood DJ (1997) Toward a theory of stakeholder identification and salience: defining the principle of who and what really counts. Acad Manag Rev 22(4):853–886. https://doi.org/10.2307/259247

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Mosites E, Seeman S, Fenaughty A, Fink K, Eichelberger L, Holck P, Thoma TK, Bruce MG, Hennessy TW (2020) Lack of in-home piped water and reported consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among adults in rural Alaska. Public Health Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980019002477

  47. Mushavi RC, Burns BFO, Kakuhikire B, Owembabazi M, Vořechovská D, McDonough AQ, Cooper-Vince CE, Baguma C, Rasmussen JD, Bangsberg DR, Tsai AC (2019) “When you have no water, it means you have no peace”: a mixed-method, whole-population study of water insecurity and depression in rural Uganda. Soc Sci Med. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112561

  48. Nilsson LM, Berner J, Dudarev AA, Mulvad G, Odland JØ, Parkinson A, Rautio A, Tikhonov C, Evengård B (2013) Indicators of food and water security in an Arctic Health context - results from an international workshop discussion. Int J Circumpolar Health, 72(1). https://doi.org/10.3402/ijch.v72i0.21530

  49. Padowski JC, Gorelick SM, Thompson BH, Rozelle S, Fendorf S (2015) Assessment of human–natural system characteristics influencing global freshwater supply vulnerability. Environ Res Lett 10(10):104014. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/10/10/104014

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Pahl-Wostl C, Holtz G, Kastens B, Knieper C (2010) Analyzing complex water governance regimes: the management and transition framework. Environ Sci Policy 13(7):571–581. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2010.08.006

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Palinkas LA, Horwitz SM, Green CA, Wisdom JP, Duan N, Hoagwood K (2015) Purposeful sampling for qualitative data collection and analysis in mixed method implementation research. Adm Policy Ment Health 42(5):533–544. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10488-013-0528-y

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Penn HJF (2016) Water security in the rural North: responding to change, engineering perspectives, and community focused solutions (University of Alaska Fairbanks). http://hdl.handle.net/11122/6850

  53. Penn H, Loring PA, Schnabel WE (2017) Diagnosing water security in the rural North with an environmental security framework. J Environ Manag 199:91–98. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.04.088

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. RCA (2017) Water rates-residential

  55. Sarkar A, Hanrahan M, Hudson A (2015) Water insecurity in Canadian Indigenous communities: some inconvenient truths. Rural Remote Health 15(4):3354

    Google Scholar 

  56. Sivapalan M, Konar M, Srinivasan V, Chhatre A, Wutich A, Scott CA, Rodríguez-Iturbe I (2014) Socio-hydrology: use-inspired water sustainability science for the Anthropocene. Earth’s Future 2(4):225–230. https://doi.org/10.1002/2013EF000164

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Sohns A, Ford J, Riva M, Robinson B, Adamowski J (2019) Water vulnerability in Arctic households: a literature-based analysis. Arctic (in press)

  58. Stoler J, Brewis A, Harris LM, Wutich A, Pearson AL, Rosinger A, Schuster R, Young SL (2019) Household water sharing: a missing link in international health. Int Health. https://doi.org/10.1093/inthealth/ihy094

  59. Thomas TK, Ritter T, Bruden D, Bruce M, Byrd K, Goldberger R, Hennessy T (2016) Impact of providing in-home water service on the rates of infectious diseases: results from four communities in Western Alaska. J Water Health 14(1):132–141. https://doi.org/10.2166/wh.2015.110

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Toole S, Klocker N, Head L (2016) Re-thinking climate change adaptation and capacities at the household scale. Climatic Change 135(2):203–209. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1577-x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. USDA-ERS (2018) State Fact Sheets: Alaska

  62. USGS (2016) Water Questions & Answers: how much water does the average person use at home per day? Retrieved from https://water.usgs.gov/edu/qa-home-percapita.html

  63. Vennix J, Akkermans H, Rouwette E (1996) Group model‐building to facilitate organizational change: an exploratory study. Syst Dyn Rev 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1099-1727(199621)12:1<39::AID-SDR94>3.0.CO;2

  64. Voinov A, Bousquet F (2010) Modelling with stakeholders. Environ Model Softw 25(11):1268–1281. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsoft.2010.03.007

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Vörösmarty CJ, Pahl-Wostl C, Bunn SE, Lawford R (2013) Global water, the anthropocene and the transformation of a science. Curr Opin Environ Sustain 5:539–550. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2013.10.005

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Wheater HS (2014) Water Security – science and management challenges. Hydrological Sci Water Security Present Future 366:23–30. https://doi.org/10.5194/piahs-366-23-2015

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. WHO/UNICEF (2015) Progress on sanitation and drinking water: 2015 update and MDG assessment. World Health Organization. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13398-014-0173-7.2

  68. WHO/UNICEF (2017) Progress on drinking waterm sanitation and hygiene- 2017 update and SDG baseline. WHO/UNICEF, Geneva

  69. Wilson NJ, Mutter E, Inkster J, Satterfield T (2018) Community-based monitoring as the practice of indigenous governance: a case study of Indigenous-led water quality monitoring in the Yukon River Basin. J Environ Manag 210:290–298. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.01.020

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Wilson NJ, Harris LM, Nelson J, Shah SH (2019) Re-theorizing politics in water governance. Water. https://doi.org/10.3390/w11071470

  71. Wright CJ, Sargeant JM, Edge VL, Ford JD, Farahbakhsh K, Shiwak I, Harper SL (2018) How are perceptions associated with water consumption in Canadian Inuit? A cross-sectional survey in Rigolet, Labrador. Sci Total Environ 618:369–378. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.10.255

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Wutich A, Budds J, Jepson W, Harris LM, Adams E, Brewis A, Cronk L, DeMyers C, Maes K, Marley T, Miller J, Pearson A, Rosinger AY, Schuster RC, Stoler J, Staddon C, Wiessner P, Workman C, Young S (2018) Household water sharing: a review of water gifts, exchanges, and transfers across cultures. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Water. https://doi.org/10.1002/wat2.1309

  73. Wutich A, Ragsdale K (2008) Water insecurity and emotional distress: coping with supply, access, and seasonal variability of water in a Bolivian squatter settlement. Soc Sci Med. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.09.042

Download references

Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge funding support from the Canadian Institute of Health Research, and ArcticNet – A Canada National Center of Excellence. We are very appreciative of all the Alaskans and stakeholders that participated in this research. Thanks to Dr. Mylene Riva for discussing these research ideas.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Antonia Sohns.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Sohns, A., Ford, J.D., Adamowski, J. et al. Participatory Modeling of Water Vulnerability in Remote Alaskan Households Using Causal Loop Diagrams. Environmental Management 67, 26–42 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-020-01387-1

Download citation

Keywords

  • Water vulnerability
  • Alaska
  • Participatory modeling
  • Causal loop diagrams
  • Arctic
  • Climate change