Water Research

Award Winning Poster: Stephanie Masina

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Continuing our Award Winning Poster Series, we celebrate Stephanie Masina’s poster prize from the Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses Scientific Symposium in May 2017. At this conference, Steph presented her work on enteric parasites in water conducted in close collaboration with Nunavut Research Institute.

Congratulations Steph!

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Award Winning Poster

CPHAZ 2017

New Publication: Wastewater treatment and enteric illness in the Arctic

The article is freely available for 50 days: Anyone clicking on this link before February 03, 2019 will be taken directly to the final version of this article: https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1YE0uB8ccghTq

Citation:

Daley, K., Jamieson, R., Rainham, D., Hansen, L. T., Harper, S. L. (2018). Screening-level microbial risk assessment of acute gastrointestinal illness attributable to wastewater treatment systems in Nunavut, Canada. Science of the Total Environment. 657(20): 1253-1264.

Abstract:

Most arctic communities use primary wastewater treatment systems that are capable of only low levels of pathogen removal. Effluent potentially containing fecally derived microorganisms is released into wetlands and marine waters that may simultaneously serve as recreation or food harvesting locations for local populations. The purpose of this study is to provide the first estimates of acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) attributable to wastewater treatment systems in Arctic Canada. A screening-level, point estimate quantitative microbial risk assessment model was developed to evaluate worst-case scenarios across an array of exposure pathways in five case study locations. A high annual AGI incidence rate of 5.0 cases per person is estimated in Pangnirtung, where a mechanical treatment plant discharges directly to marine waters, with all cases occurring during low tide conditions. The probability of AGI per person per single exposure during this period ranges between 1.0 × 10−1 (shore recreation) and 6.0 × 10−1 (shellfish consumption). A moderate incidence rate of 1.2 episodes of AGI per person is estimated in Naujaat, where a treatment system consisting of a pond and tundra wetland is used, with the majority of cases occurring during spring. The pathway with the highest individual probability of AGI per single exposure event is wetland travel at 6.0 × 10−1. All other risk probabilities per single exposure are <1.0 × 10−1. The AGI incidence rates estimated for the other three case study locations are <0.1. These findings suggest that wastewater treatment sites may be contributing to elevated rates of AGI in some arctic Canadian communities. Absolute risk values, however, should be weighed with caution based on the exploratory nature of this study design. These results can be used to inform future risk assessment and epidemiological research as well as support public health and sanitation decisions in the region.

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New Publication! Understanding source water protection in Indigenous communities

Congratulations to Rachael Marshall for her new publication in the Journal of Hydrology.  The implementation of source water protection programs is relatively recent in Canada and the United States. Although protecting water at the watershed scale has been a focus of many of these programs, few Indigenous communities located within these watersheds are involved in the process. Therefore, we wanted to examine and map the extent, range, and nature of the published peer-reviewed literature on the adoption, implementation, and outcomes of source water protection programs involving Indigenous populations in Canada and the United States.

Rachael Marshal led the paper; she is a PhD Candidate in Environmental Engineering at the University of Guelph. She has worked in partnership with Indigenous communities in Guatemala, Nunatsiavut, northern and southern Ontario, and Saskatchewan to promote clean drinking water, appropriate water infrastructure, and healthy socio-ecological systems.

Citation:

Marshall, R., Levison, J., McBean, E., Brown, E., Harper, S.L. 2018. Source water protection programs and Indigenous communities in Canada and the United States: a scoping review. Journal of Hydrology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2018.04.070

Abstract:

The implementation of source water protection programs is relatively recent in Canada and the United States. Although protecting water at the watershed scale has been a focus of many of these programs, few Indigenous communities located within these watersheds are involved in the process. The purpose of this scoping review was to examine and map the extent, range, and nature of the published peer-reviewed literature on the adoption, implementation, and outcomes of source water protection programs involving Indigenous populations in Canada and the United States. This review followed a systematic process to identify and evaluate the literature. Searches were conducted in three aggregator databases (Web of Science™, ProQuest®, and GreenFILE™). Two independent reviewers conducted a systematic two-stage screening process using inclusion and exclusion criteria in the software DistillerSR©. Articles that met inclusion criteria were analyzed using thematic qualitative and descriptive quantitative methods. The findings indicate that: a) there is a lack of peer-reviewed studies focusing on the ecological outcomes of source water protection programs that are inclusive of Indigenous populations in Canada and the United States; b) the depth to which the literature describes Indigenous involvement in source water protection programs is minimal; and c) Indigenous involvement in source water protection programs is generally not reported as substantial. This review provides several recommendations to improve both the peer-reviewed literature on the topic and source water protection programs. There is a need to improve reporting in the literature on quantitative program results, the nature of Indigenous involvement in source water protection programs, and Indigenous-inclusive inter-jurisdictional success stories. It is also recommended that source water protection programs recognize Indigenous peoples as more than stakeholders groups, and that future studies pull from innovations in other fields to address complex problems and provide new insights to the field of source water protection. The methodology presented in this paper provides a template for researchers in engineering and environmental fields, such as hydrology, to identify and review published literature in a systematic, transparent, and rigorous manner.

How are perceptions associated with water consumption in Canadian Inuit? Check Out this New Publication to Find Out!

Congratulations to Carlee Wright for publishing her second article from her MSc thesis!  Click here to read the full article... Citation: Wright, C.J., Sargeant, J.M., Edge, V.L., Ford, J.D., Farahbakhsh, K., Shiwak, I., Flowers, C., Gordon, A.C., RICG, IHACC Research Team (Berrang-Ford, L., Carcamo, C., Llanos, A., Lwasa, S., Namanya, D.B.), and Harper, S.L. (2018). How are perceptions associated with water consumption in Canadian Inuit? A cross-sectional survey in Rigolet, Labrador. Science of The Total Environment, 618(15): 369–378.

 

Abstract

Concerns regarding the safety and aesthetic qualities of one's municipal drinking water supply are important factors influencing drinking water perceptions and consumption patterns (i.e. sources used and daily volume of consumption). In northern Canada, Inuit communities face challenges with drinking water quality, and many Inuit have reported concerns regarding the safety of their drinking water. The objectives of this research were to describe perceptions of municipal tap water, examine use of water sources and changes following the installation of a potable water dispensing unit (PWDU) in 2014, and identify factors associated with water consumption in the Inuit community of Rigolet. This study used data from three cross-sectional census surveys conducted between 2012 and 2014. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to aggregate data from multiple variables related to perceptions of water, and logistic regressions were used to identify variables associated with water consumption patterns. Three quarters of residents reported using the PWDU after its installation, with concomitant declines reported in consumption of bottled, tap, and brook water. Negative perceptions of tap water were associated with lower odds of consuming tap water (ORPCAcomponent1 = 0.73, 95% CI 0.56–0.94; ORPCAcomponent2 = 0.67, 95% CI 0.49–0.93); women had higher odds of drinking purchased water compared to men (OR = 1.90, 95% CI 1.11–3.26). The median amount of water consumed per day was 1 L. Using brook water (OR = 2.60, 95% CI 1.22–5.56) and living in a household where no one had full-time employment (OR = 2.94, 95% CI 1.35–6.39) were associated with consuming > 2 L of water per day. Results of this study may inform drinking water interventions, risk assessments, and public health messaging in Rigolet and other Indigenous communities.

Canadian and Australian perspectives on promising practices for integrative Indigenous and Western knowledge systems

Congratulations to first-author Rob Stefanelli, from Heather Castleden's HEC Lab, on his publication that examines Canadian and Australian researchers' perspectives on promising practices for implementing indigenous and Western knowledge systems in water research and management. 

Citation:

Stefanelli, R., Castleden, H., Cunsolo, A., Martin, D., Harper, S.L. and Hart, C., 2017. Canadian and Australian researchers' perspectives on promising practices for implementing indigenous and Western knowledge systems in water research and management. Water Policy, DOI: 10.2166/wp.2017.181. Click here to access the article.

Abstract:

National and international policies have called for the inclusion of Indigenous peoples and the uptake of Indigenous knowledge alongside Western knowledge in natural resource management. Such policy decisions have led to a recent proliferation of research projects seeking to apply both Indigenous and Western knowledge in water research and management. While these policies require people with knowledge from both Western and Indigenous perspectives to collaborate and share knowledge, how best to create and foster these partnerships is less understood. To elicit this understanding, 17 semi-structured interviews were completed with academic researchers from Canada and Australia who conduct integrative water research. Participants, most of whom were non-Indigenous, were asked to expand on their experiences in conducting integrative water research projects, and findings were thematically analyzed. Our findings suggest that Indigenous and Western knowledge systems influence how one relates to water, and that partnerships require a recognition and acceptance of these differences. We learned that community-based participatory research approaches, and the associated tenets of fostering mutual trust and community ownership for such an approach, are integral to the meaningful engagement that is essential for developing collaborative partnerships to implement both Indigenous and Western knowledge systems and better care for water.

New Publication! Water quality and health in northern Canada

Congratulations to Carlee Wright on her first first-author publication!  Carlee worked with the Rigolet Inuit Community Government to examine potential associations between stored drinking water and acute gastrointestinal illness in Labrador Inuit. Citation: Wright, C.J., Sargeant, J.M., Edge, V.L., Ford, J.D., Farahbakhsh, K., Shiwak, I., Flowers, C., IHACC Research Team, and Harper, S.L.  (2017). Water quality and health in northern Canada: stored drinking water and acute gastrointestinal illness in Labrador Inuit. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, DOI: 10.1007/s11356-017-9695-9.  Click here to access the article.

Abstract: One of the highest self-reported incidence rates of acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) in the global peer-reviewed literature occurs in Inuit communities in the Canadian Arctic. This high incidence of illness could be due, in part, to the consumption of contaminated water, as many northern communities face challenges related to the quality of municipal drinking water. Furthermore, many Inuit store drinking water in containers in the home, which could increase the risk of contamination between source and point-of-use (i.e., water recontamination during storage). To examine this risk, this research characterized drinking water collection and storage practices, identified potential risk factors for water contamination between source and point-of-use, and examined possible associations between drinking water contamination and self-reported AGI in the Inuit community of Rigolet, Canada. The study included a cross-sectional census survey that captured data on types of drinking water used, household practices related to drinking water (e.g., how it was collected and stored), physical characteristics of water storage containers, and self-reported AGI. Additionally, water samples were collected from all identified drinking water containers in homes and analyzed for presence of Escherichia coli and total coliforms. Despite municipally treated tap water being available in all homes, 77.6% of households had alternative sources of drinking water stored in containers, and of these containers, 25.2% tested positive for total coliforms. The use of transfer devices and water dippers (i.e., smaller bowls or measuring cups) for the collection and retrieval of water from containers were both significantly associated with increased odds of total coliform presence in stored water (ORtransfer device = 3.4, 95% CI 1.2–11.7; ORdipper = 13.4, 95% CI 3.8–47.1). Twenty-eight-day period prevalence of self-reported AGI during the month before the survey was 17.2% (95% CI 13.0–22.5), which yielded an annual incidence rate of 2.4 cases per person per year (95% CI 1.8–3.1); no water-related risk factors were significantly associated with AGI. Considering the high prevalence of, and risk factors associated with, indicator bacteria in drinking water stored in containers, potential exposure to waterborne pathogens may be minimized through interventions at the household level.

Photos of Carlee's Research

Congratulations to Carlee Wright for Successfully Defending her MSc thesis Research!

Carlee graduated with distinction from her BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of Guelph in 2014. She then started her MSc in Epidemiology in the Department of Population Medicine (OVC) and earned a 91% average in her coursework. Outside of her coursework, she was a Teaching Assistant (TA) for the graduate-level Epidemiology I course in 2015, a member of the EcoHealth Community of Interest (2014-present), and an active member of the journal club (2014-present). Carlee conducted community-led research on drinking water quality and safety, led by the community of Rigolet (see thesis abstract below). She presented this research at 3 national and 5 international conferences, including 8 poster and 7 oral presentations, many of which were co-presented with Inez Shiwak (an Inuit research associate from Rigolet). To support her research, Carlee won over $62,000 in scholarships and research grants; her research has taken her to Nunatsiavut, Alaska, Oxford, Montreal, and other locales. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Carlee over the past few years; she is a great thinker, writer, and analyst. Congratulations Carlee!

Carlee's Thesis Abstract: 

Canadian Inuit have often reported concerns about the quality of their municipal drinking water. This research took an EcoHealth approach to investigate drinking water perceptions and consumption patterns, as well as drinking water contamination and its potential associations with acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) in the Inuit community of Rigolet, Canada. Three census cross-sectional surveys (n=226-246) captured data on AGI, drinking water use, and water storage (2012-2014). Bacterial contamination of household drinking water was assessed alongside the 2014 survey. Concerns regarding taste, smell, and colour of tap water were associated with lower odds of consuming tap water. The use of transfer devices (e.g. small bowls or measuring cups) was associated with household water contamination. No water-related risk factors for AGI were identified. Results of this study are intended to inform safe water management practices, as well as contextually appropriate drinking water interventions, risk assessments, and public health messaging in the Arctic. Click here to access Carlee's Thesis.

Research Photos of Carlee

New Book Chapter about Reconciliation and Water Research

Citation:

Castleden, H., Hart, C., Cunsolo, A., Harper, S.L. and Martin, D. (2017). Reconciliation and relationality in water research and management in Canada: Implementing Indigenous ontologies, epistemologies, and methodologies. In Water Policy and Governance in Canada (pp. 69-95). Springer International Publishing. Click here for access.

Abstract

Water-related issues disproportionately affect Indigenous communities in Canada. Despite millions in investment, Western-trained scientists, engineers, and other researchers as well as the government agencies that have constitutionally-mandated fiduciary responsibilities to address such issues have been rather unsuccessful in solving them. This has been due, in large part, to an overreliance on methods of Western science and management, ignoring the vast place-based wisdom of Indigenous knowledge systems and relational practices regarding water found across the country. The underlying reasons for this partiality are not innocuous; entrenched colonial and racist policies, programs, and practices have persisted across time and space. In recent years, there is increasing recognition of the importance of applying Indigenous approaches to water challenges in Canada. But strategies for successful implementation are only beginning to emerge. In an attempt to respond to this knowledge gap, our research has sought to systematically identify and assess how both Indigenous and Western ontologies, epistemologies, and methodologies have been implemented in water research and management. In doing so, this chapter identifies some of the most promising practices in Canada. We share these with the goal of contributing to processes of reconciliation and responsibility towards each other as well as our roles as water stewards across the country.