Human factors fostering sustainable safe drinking water

Catherine Sughrue Etter, Salve Regina University


This dissertation, Human Factors Fostering Sustainable Safe Drinking Water, examines from a humanities perspective, scientific and cultural data to assess the relationship and impact of drinking water challenges on the human condition in eight different communities: Mystic, CT, New London, CT, Bar Harbor, ME, South Portland, ME, Orleans, MA, Falmouth, MA, Jamestown, RI, and Newport, RI. Specifically measured is the technological and cultural response to the problem of limited drinking water resources by examining the water management and the art, ethics, history, literature, philosophy, and religious practices of each community. A non-traditional approach to qualitative research through a review of direct observations and collection of data was employed in order to measure the communities' practices and extrapolate the attitudes and values that might influence people's perception and use of their drinking water resources. This unique approach combining the humanities and science has enabled a rich analysis of my research question, "Which human factors influence some New England communities to effectively manage their resources so as to maintain a sustainable drinking water supply?" This study also incorporates scientific data from local, county, state, and federal agencies, as well as private organizations, which were obtained through local water reports, environmental assessments, the United States Geologic Survey (USGS), EPA publications, and websites. Data was primarily derived from the years 2000-2005. For example the majority of the demographic data was extrapolated from the year 2000 census. Information and data about the eight communities were collected from a review of literature and direct field observations. First the eight communities were evaluated according to their drinking water's level of sustainability during 2001 to 2003. Then the demographic, economic, and human factors were coded based on the influence they might have towards the community achieving sustainable water supplies. Analyses and categorization of this information in order to assess each community's water supplies and water usage practices entailed assembling tables, drawing flow charts, and discussing findings. The study concludes that the smallest populated communities, Bar Harbor and Orleans were evaluated as sustainable and the largest populated communities, Falmouth and Newport were evaluated as unsustainable. The individual variables and groupings of these variables did not reveal any other consistent relationships. However, each of the communities studied exhibited some environmental awareness toward their community's water supply. Their awareness may be a positive indication that they will be able to succeed in sustaining fixture water reserves.

Subject Area

Environmental science

Recommended Citation

Etter, Catherine Sughrue, "Human factors fostering sustainable safe drinking water" (2007). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI3279847.