Unsafe drinking water quality in remote Western Australian Aboriginal communities

Jay Rajapakse, Semone Rainer-Smith, Graeme J. Millar, Peter Grace, Allison Hutton, Wendy Hoy, Christine Jeffries-Stokes, Brian Hudson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is important in the fields of public health and health geography because of its heavy burden on the health system and high cost of treatment in its advanced stages. The causes of CKD are associated with diabetes and hypertension, but in some parts of the world, the disease occurs in the absence of these factors. Researchers identify this condition as CKD of “unknown” causes (CKDu). CKDu is a multi-factored health problem and one suspected causal factor is contaminated drinking water. The disease occurs globally but is found in particularly high concentrations among people of certain ethnic and disadvantaged social groups living in very different locations around the world. CKD has become endemic in Western Australia where hospital admissions for Aboriginal people requiring renal dialysis or treatment for diabetes are much higher than for the general population. The possible proportions of CKDu cases among the CKD patients are unknown. This study examines the drinking water quality among communities such as these. Water chemistry analysis in these areas indicates that the nitrate and uranium content greatly exceed officially recommended levels. Most of these communities rely on raw groundwater to supply their domestic needs, and it is very likely that the people are unwittingly ingesting high levels of nitrates and uranium, probably including uranyl nitrates. Very few such remote communities have access to treated drinking water, and cost-effective water treatment systems are required to provide potable water at the local scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-188
Number of pages11
JournalGeographical Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


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