Rethinking existing approaches to water security in remote communities: An analysis of two drinking water systems in Nunatsiavut, Labrador, Canada 

Christina Goldhar 
Nain Research Centre, Nunatsiavut Government, Nain, NL, Canada; christina_goldhar@nunatsiavut.com 
Trevor Bell 
Memorial University, St. John’s, NL, Canada; tbell@mun.ca 
Johanna Wolf 
Royal Roads University, Victoria, BC, Canada; johanna.1wolf@royalroads.ca

ABSTRACT: This paper introduces an approach to understanding water security in remote communities that emphasises drinking water access, availability, quality, and preference, presenting exploratory findings from Rigolet and Nain, located within the Inuit Settlement Region of Nunatsiavut, eastern Subarctic Canada. Individual and household interviews numbering 121 and 13 key informant interviews were conducted in 2009 and 2010. Interview findings were analysed with results from participant observation, a review of municipal water system records and secondary sources. Results reveal restricted access to a sufficient quantity of desirable, clean, drinking water for some residents, despite the existence of municipal water systems in both communities. Drinking water sources available to residents include tap water, store-bought water and water gathered from running streams, lakes and ice melt. Drinking water preferences and risk perceptions indicate these sources are regarded as distinct by study participants. 81% of respondents prefer water gathered from the land over other alternatives and 22% primarily consume this source while in the community. These findings must be understood within the context of drinking water system attributes and the geographies of people and place characterising the region.

KEYWORDS: Inuit, community drinking water system, perceptions of drinking water, drinking water preferences, water security, Arctic