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Water & Sanitation

Not everyone in the United States has running water

Flickr: Charles Knowles

The United States may be considered a developed country, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some places with similar concerns as in developing regions of the world. California is facing a drought that will affect not only those living there but everyone that depends on its agriculture. There are a number of cities working hard to improve their low literacy rates.

And in rural Alaska, you can find serious sanitation problems.More than six percent of Alaskans are living without running water or sewage systems.

Kwethluk, Alaska is a town of 750 residents that is 400 miles from the main road systems of Anchorage and Fairbanks. When it comes to accessing a water supply, not all families have working plumbing systems so they must rely on a branch of the Kuskokwim River.

In the winter when the river freezes, residents cut out blocks of ice, haul it home, let it melt and wait for the silt to settle before drinking it or using it for washing.

These Alaskans also collect rain water and buy 5 gallon jugs of water from a central watering point to lug home.

Regardless of the method, the resource is limited and can only be obtained little by little, so households use as small amount as possible.

To give you a reference, the average American uses up to 80 to 100 gallons a day. Fifteen gallons are what’s considered the adequate amount to stay clean. However, the Alaskans I'm referring to use as little as two gallons a day.

The town uses community basins for hand washing as a way to conserve water. Seems like a good idea to me, except it turns out there are a lot of respiratory infections being caused because of it, which children are suffering from specifically.

According to Alaska Public Media, “CDC studies show Alaskans without plumbing get invasive pneumococcal infections up to eleven times more often that other Alaskans. In Southwest Alaska, where 40% of the homes lack plumbing, one in four infants is hospitalized for severe respiratory infection.”

The harsh weather conditions of Alaska make constructing plumbing and sewer systems extremely difficult. The cost of implementing these systems is expensive as it is and it increases when it means having to ship equipment and utilities to somewhere as remote as this state.

There are a lot of challenges standing in the way of improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in rural parts of Alaska, which is even more reason why WASH should be a global effort.

Sign the Declaration for Water and Sanitation in the TAKE ACTION NOW button so that ambitious and achievable targets are included in the Sustainable Development Goals.