This paper documents the association between water and sanitation infrastructure and health indicators in Canada for First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals living on and off-reserve in Canada. We use two data sources: the Aboriginal Peoples Survey and a survey conducted in a First Nations community in northern Manitoba—St. Theresa Point First Nation. We find statistically significant relationships between water infrastructure and health status in both sources of data. In particular, among individuals living off-reserve, contaminated water is associated with a 5–7% lower likelihood of reporting good self-rated health and a 4% higher probability of reporting a health condition or stomach problem. Those in St. Theresa Point First Nation without running water are four times more likely to report an illness relative to those with running water. Off-reserve, this likely suggests a need for improved public education on the management of private water supplies and more frequent water testing. Our case study suggests that further investment in water/sanitation infrastructure and housing is needed in the community.
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There were 133 Drinking Water Advisories present in 90 First Nations communities in Canada as of 31 October 2016 (Health Canada 2016).
Jones et al. (2006) reports that an estimated 45% of all waterborne outbreaks in Canada involve non-municipal systems.
In 2011, 22% of Canadians drank primarily bottled water instead of tap water. This proportion is however higher—at 27% for households with a non-municipal water supply (Statistics Canada 2013). In a sample of individuals on reserve, 71% of respondents reported drinking bottled water (Regional Health Survey 2008).
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Schuster et al. 2005 found that of 288 outbreaks of water-borne illness over a 27-year period; two thirds were from semi-private or private systems.
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We are very grateful for the time and knowledge shared with us by participants of this study. The survey that forms the basis for this paper could not have been conducted without the assistance of Raymond Harper, for which we are very thankful. We appreciated the support with logistics for this study provided by Morgan Vespa and Shianne McKay of the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER). Finally, we thank Helen Fallding for her guidance since the beginning of this project and Karen Busby for the academic leadership which led to the funding of this project.
Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues
Appendix 1. Regression results using APS data
Appendix 2. Summary statistics by water access in St. Theresa Point First Nation
Health by water access/quality
Water illnesses by water access/quality
Work/school attendance by water quality/access
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O’Gorman, M., Penner, S. Water infrastructure and well-being among First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals in Canada: what does the data tell us?. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 33038–33055 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-018-1258-1
- Water and sanitation infrastructure
- First Nations, Métis and Inuit people