Kori VanDerGeest

Project title: "We are all here to learn": A qualitative study on perceptions of private well water testing within a rural Latinx community

Degree: MPH | Program: Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2019 | Faculty advisor: Catherine Karr


Background: The US Safe Drinking Water Act does not regulate private wells, leaving over 42 million US residents with little regulatory oversight of their water quality. Trends in public water systems suggest that private wells in Latinx communities may have higher nitrate concentrations than wells in other communities. Well stewardship promotion is critical in rural Latinx communities, but few studies have examined their unique barriers and facilitators for well stewardship behaviors such as well water testing. This study sought to identify the barriers and facilitators of private well water testing in Latinx communities. Methods: We conducted 4 focus groups (FG) with private well users, 2 in Spanish and 2 in English. We recruited 37 participants from the Lower Yakima Valley, WA, a community with a large Latinx population and elevated nitrate concentrations in groundwater. Questions on testing barriers and facilitators were drawn from the RANAS model for water-related health behaviors. Inductive thematic analysis was conducted by two coders to identify common themes. Results: Although the study sought to investigate barriers and facilitators of testing, themes around barriers and facilitators to well stewardship behaviors, including well maintenance, testing, and treatment, emerged more frequently. Facilitators of well stewardship included strong concerns about well water contamination; knowledge of contamination sources; do-it-yourself (DIY) home repair expertise; a desire for information; and a sense of duty to protect family. Barriers included limited actionable information on testing and treatment as well as financial costs and time limitations, which may be exacerbated for residents with limited socioeconomic means. Conclusions: Private well users in this predominantly Latinx community may have increased concerns about well water contamination, but may lack actionable information to act on those concerns. Well stewardship programs should provide actionable information to private well users and make testing and treatment more affordable and convenient. Additionally, programs in rural Latinx communities should leverage community strengths, such as DIY home repair expertise and a commitment to family. URI http://hdl.handle.net/1773/44220