Drinking water management: health risk perceptions and choices in First Nations and non-First Nations communities in Canada

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 May 30;11(6):5889-903. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110605889.


The relationship between tap water and health has been a topic of public concern and calls for better management in Canada since well-publicized contamination events in two provinces (Ontario and Saskatchewan) in 2000-2001. This study reports the perspectives on health risks from tap water and corresponding use of, and spending on, bottled water in a number of different communities in Canada. In 2009-2010, four First Nations communities (three from Ontario and one from Saskatchewan) and a geographically diverse sample of non-First Nations Canadians were surveyed about their beliefs concerning health risks from tap water and their spending practices for bottled water as a substitute. Responses to five identical questions were examined, revealing that survey respondents from Ontario First Nations communities were more likely than non-First Nations Canadians to believe bottled water is safer than tap water (OR 1.6); more likely to report someone became ill from tap water (OR 3.6); more likely to express water and health concerns related to tap water consumption (OR 2.4); and more likely to spend more on bottled water (OR 4.9). On the other hand, participants from one Saskatchewan First Nations community were less likely than non-First Nations Canadians to believe that someone had become ill from drinking tap water (OR 3.8), less likely to believe bottled water is safer than tap (OR 2.0), and less likely to have health concerns with tap water (OR 1.5). These differences, however, did not translate into differences in the likelihood of high bottled water expenditures or being a 100% bottled water consumer. The paper discusses how the differences observed may be related to water supply and regulation, trust, perceived control, cultural background, location, and past experience.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Choice Behavior
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Drinking Water / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Drinking Water