November 4, 2017 2:01 am

Studying entitlements and capabilities, socio-cultural dynamics, and political processes, institutions and governance

Water Security

Amber Wutich, Jessica Buddz, Laura Eichelberger, Jo Geere, Leila Harris, Wendy Jepson, Emma Norman, Kathleen O’Reilly, Amber Pearson, Sameer Shah, K. Simpson, Chad Staddon, Justin Stoler, Manuel P. Teodoro & Sera Young


  • Existing approaches have advantages, but underestimate household water insecurity.
  • HWI methods must address economic, socio-cultural, and political processes.
  • Hard-to-measure dimensions of HWI can be assessed with methods we present.

Household water insecurity has serious implications for the health, livelihoods and wellbeing of people around the world. Existing methods to assess the state of household water insecurity focus largely on water quality, quantity or adequacy, source or reliability, and affordability. These methods have significant advantages in terms of their simplicity and comparability, but are widely recognized to oversimplify and underestimate the global burden of household water insecurity. In contrast, a broader definition of household water insecurity should include entitlements and human capabilities, socio-cultural dynamics, and political institutions and processes. This paper proposes a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods that can be widely adopted across cultural, geographic, and demographic contexts to assess hard-to-measure dimensions of household water insecurity. In doing so, it critically evaluates existing methods for assessing household water insecurity and suggests ways in which methodological innovations advance a broader definition of household water insecurity.

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