Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Water in the Village

1/21/2015, Chefornak, Alaska: I recently learned how much effort is involved in getting drinking water to the clinic. Chefornak does not have piped in water - which means water fluoridation is not feasible. Running water is a luxury, requiring large holding tanks that need to be filled manually (usually once every few days). In the clinic, the sewage and water system are linked. When the sewage holding tank fills up, the water turns off to prevent overflows. This system encourages users to conserve water, particularly since the holding tanks fill up without any notification system. The local store sells commercially bottled drinking water, which costs about $8-$10 per gallon. To save money, locals will drink rainwater, which is collected through rooftop systems on top of homes during the year and stored in outdoor ponds. In the clinic, there is a water distiller that makes the rainwater safe to drink.

Last June, the water distiller was up and running. There was a slightly brown color to the water even after being distilled, but the water tasted just fine. This trip, the distiller is broken. When I arrived in Chefornak about 10 days ago, there was a large plastic container filled with drinking water.

Like over the summer, I assumed during the winter that water was simply brought to the clinic. Not so simple in sub-zero degree terrain. Where would water be stored in the village? Outside?

After running out of water over the MLK day weekend, I learned about the drinking water procurement process during winters in the YK. Drinking water starts off looking like this, which is hand-chipped from an outside pond.


It's quite the process to melt the ice into water, one pot at a time.

The most recent update on the clinic's drinking water status.


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