We Used to Drink Our Water: Understanding the causes and consequences of boil water advisories in rural drinking water wells

  • Author / Creator
    Mah, Fraser James
  • Access to safe, reliable drinking water in many First Nations in Canada lags significantly behind the access available in non-First Nations communities. This thesis explores the sources, pathways, and consequences of bacteriological contamination in drinking water wells in Samson Cree Nation. A historical data review showed that seasonal precipitation and well installation contractor are the two most significant factors that determine risk of bacteriological contamination. Contamination events are most frequent from August to October, two months after the peak in total precipitation from June to August. Well contractors typically operated over specific periods of time and wells installed by contractors operating during earlier periods were at greater risk of contamination than wells installed by more recent contractors. Isotope analysis of groundwater samples provided an indication that older, shallower wells were under greater surface water influence and greater risk of bacteriological contamination than newer, deeper wells. However, the sample size collected was not sufficient to provide a clear safe value for well depth and age based on these indicators. A survey of Samson Cree Nation residents was completed and found that distrust of their water source correlated with: increased use of bottled water for drinking, previous or current boil water advisory on the household, a higher priority on protecting Samson Cree Nation’s water rights, and a greater willingness to pay for improved drinking water servicing. Other issues identified by interviewees that impact their access to safe, reliable drinking water include: communication barriers, oil and gas activity, shock chlorinations, insufficient funding and poor management of infrastructure, and general poor quality of groundwater and water infrastructure.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2014
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.