Life in Alaska: Living Without Running Water

Here at Alaska Cache Box, we not only want to bring you authentic Alaskan products, but also provide a peak into what life in Alaska is like.  Few things are as important to Alaskans as water. Water is something in our everyday lives that doesn’t get that much attention, but in some way, affects a lot of what we do. Humans and animals need water to survive and getting it in the remote areas of the state can be quite difficult. Alaskans have adapted to their environment and have come up with a variety of ways to meet their water needs in the arctic environment.

Many people in Alaska live in dry cabins like this one.
Alaskan life can be tough, but it is worth it.

In Fairbanks, many people live outside of areas that have what would be considered “standard” water service. Due to cost and environment (permafrost ground), water mains and piping don’t extend to certain areas of the city. To get around this, people will often use 5-gallon jugs and fill up their water at filling stations around town. Others will put large water containers in the back of their truck and fill up at a water station to take back home. Others can subscribe to a water service, where a big truck full of water will come and fill up inside or outside tanks based on how much water one would need.

A typical 'dry' cabin (no running water) in Fairbanks, Alaska.
A typical ‘dry’ cabin (no running water) in Fairbanks, Alaska. Note the blue water jug on the porch.

Amenities like taking a shower or using a toilet can become something to look forward to in places without access to running water. Many people will use shower facilities wherever they can find them. People will shower at paid shower facilities, at schools, at work or wherever there is an available shower. In the summer, there is a sun shower method that can used, where a bag of water is placed in the 24-hour sun. The sun warms the bag and when someone wants to shower, they clip the bag over their head and let gravity control the flow of the water while they wash.

Outhouses are a common item for many households in Fairbanks.

Many homes without running water have pit toilets (outhouses) or compost toilets where people can do their business. Without the standard piping and water that many of us are used to, there is no easy way to bring waste water into or out of homes. Some homes do use leach fields and septic systems, but the cold winter months can often cause backup issues and frozen pipes. While a simple pit toilet or compost toilet might not sound that glamorous, both are very low maintenance. Water is vitally important to survival, and Alaskans have shown how people can adapt to their situation and enjoy the last frontier.



4 thoughts on “Life in Alaska: Living Without Running Water

  1. Very interesting post. In Finland there are on our outlying countryside same problem, but generally we have wells. I inherited my late father’s small cabin and I had to transport drinking water to it. I sold it last summer.

    Happy weekend.


    1. It can be an exhausting way of life, but it sure does teach you how to conserve your water usage. Many places around Fairbanks have wells too, but due to the expense of drilling a well many people just opt to either have water tanks or no plumbing at all.

      Thanks for the comment! Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. For 14 years I lived near Livengood without the amenities of life and you are correct water was at the top of that list. I remember in dead winter hauling thirty or so gallons from Fairbanks and by the time I got home it was frozen… but it indeed was worth the effort.


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