Alaska communities have new resource for understanding the role of washeterias in community health

April 6, 2021

Approximately 3,300 homes in over 30 communities in rural Alaska lack in-home piped water, leading to low in-home water use. Community facilities, such as washeterias, help bridge gaps in household water access where piped water may not be immediately accessible.

Washeterias are core and essential community facilities that play an important role in critical hygiene activities, such as bathing and laundry, for these locations and help increase sufficient water usage to protect health.

Ease of water access and increased usage are known to be positively correlated with improved health. New research from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium demonstrates the value washeterias provide in community water access is available in the report “Water Infrastructure Brief: Opportunities and challenges for washeterias in unpiped Alaska communities.” [PDF]

Recognizing a lack of information on washeterias, ANTHC researchers created this report to help communities, Tribal health organizations and funders understand the role these infrastructure facilities play in providing water access for residents of remote Alaskan communities.

We are grateful for the individual community members who shared their personal experiences and knowledge, as well as the Tribes that were supportive of conducting this research. These contributions are valuable for all communities and residents affected by continued challenges in accessing water and sanitation facilities.

For more information about the report, contact the National Tribal Water Center, housed within ANTHC, at

Report Summary

Approximately 3,300 homes in over 30 communities in rural Alaska lack in-home piped water, which results in challenges to health and wellbeing. While piped water may be a long way off, community water infrastructure plays an important role in critical necessities, such as bathing and laundry. Access to washeterias doubles the quantity of water households in unpiped communities use from 4.6 gallons to 9.3 gallons which brings water use to 70% of the recommendation from the World Health Organization for water access to sustain health. Challenges to operate a washeteria include cost, access, technical and operational issues, hygiene and privacy concerns. This report recommends updating the technology of existing facilities, improving access, reducing closures, improving cleanliness, and decreasing the end user costs of washeteria services to improve health in unpiped communities.

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