Impact of providing in-home water service on the rates of infectious diseases: results from four communities in Western Alaska

J Water Health. 2016 Feb;14(1):132-41. doi: 10.2166/wh.2015.110.


Approximately 20% of rural Alaskan homes lack in-home piped water; residents haul water to their homes. The limited quantity of water impacts the ability to meet basic hygiene needs. We assessed rates of infections impacted by water quality (waterborne, e.g. gastrointestinal infections) and quantity (water-washed, e.g. skin and respiratory infections) in communities transitioning to in-home piped water. Residents of four communities consented to a review of medical records 3 years before and after their community received piped water. We selected health encounters with ICD-9CM codes for respiratory, skin and gastrointestinal infections. We calculated annual illness episodes for each infection category after adjusting for age. We obtained 5,477 person-years of observation from 1032 individuals. There were 9,840 illness episodes with at least one ICD-9CM code of interest; 8,155 (83%) respiratory, 1,666 (17%) skin, 241 (2%) gastrointestinal. Water use increased from an average 1.5 gallons/capita/day (g/c/d) to 25.7 g/c/d. There were significant (P-value < 0.05) declines in respiratory (16, 95% confidence interval (CI): 11-21%), skin (20, 95%CI: 10-30%), and gastrointestinal infections (38, 95%CI: 13-55%). We demonstrated significant declines in respiratory, skin and gastrointestinal infections among individuals who received in-home piped water. This study reinforces the importance of adequate quantities of water for health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease / epidemiology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alaska / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hygiene / education*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / etiology
  • Rural Population
  • Skin Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Skin Diseases / etiology
  • Water Supply*
  • Young Adult