Assessment and Education of Water Drinking Attitudes in an Indigenous Population in Guatemala


Poor water quality has been identified as a significant source of infant mortality and other human health issues in rural Guatemala. Data collected in 2001 at a village in the central highlands of Guatemala indicated that all of the commonly available sources of water contained bacteria levels which exceeded World Health Organization standards. A 240 meter well was installed at the site in 2002; testing of ground water from the well indicated that it was of acceptable quality and quantity. However, well meter readings one year later suggested that most families in the village were not utilizing the well. A questionnaire was developed and administered in 2004 to assess attitudinal determinants of water usage among the village residents. Respondents were asked about water choices and water-related illnesses, perceptions of water safety, and attitudes toward well water. Residents of the community in which the well had been installed (N = 21) reported higher perceptions of well water safety than did residents of another community (N = 30) with no access to quality ground water. The presence of the well may have had a positive impact on these attitudes. However, results further indicated that the residents of both villages did not associate unsafe water with sickness in their families; it is possible that they were unaware of the potential hazards associated with consumption of contaminated water. Accordingly, another group of researchers developed a set of instructional materials showing the potential health impact of consumption of contaminated water, which were administered in the Spring of 2005. Once respondents had been exposed to these educational materials, most showed much stronger intentions to use the well for drinking water. The latest meter readings from the well indicate that substantially more families are taking water from this source than from their traditional sources.

Meeting Name

Safe Drinking Water: Where Science Meets Policy -- Environmental Symposium of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2006: Mar. 16-17, Chapel Hill, NC)


Psychological Science

Second Department

Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering


Poster presentation

Keywords and Phrases

Human Health Issues; Infant Mortality; Well Meter Readings; Bacteria; Groundwater

Document Type


Document Version


File Type





© 2006 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Mar 2006

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