Action for Water Equity
Our work grows out of very recent cutting-edge research revealing severe water insecurity in high income economies. In the US, for example, more than 2 million people live without household access to clean water (US Water Alliance 2019). Much of this household water insecurity occurs in small rural and often marginalized communities including colonias (Dietz and Meehan 2019). Colonias are small, unincorporated settlements in the US Southwest, on the US-Mexico border from Texas to California that typically lack standard regulated water infrastructure, but instead deliver water service through informal water systems. The lack of complete access to water services for some in the US is often considered surprising given the sophistication of drinking and waste water system infrastructure in large US cities (Wescoat 2007). New small-scale solutions are required to reach 100% coverage for water security in the US. In this project, we take a justice-oriented, pro-poor, community-based participatory approach to address water insecurity in colonias in AZ, CA, NM, TX using innovations in water sharing, social infrastructure, and physical infrastructure.
HWISE-RCN is a community of scholars and practitioners who research and work in the interdisciplinary field of water insecurity. The RCN is an NSF-funded initiative (2018-2023) dedicated to building a community of practice that fosters key analytics and theoretical advances coupled with the development of research protocols and standardized assessments to document, benchmark, and understand the causes and outcomes of water insecurity at the household scale.
The Water for Agriculture project brings together social and biophysical researchers and practitioners to work with communities in Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Arizona to address the water and agriculture issues that matter most to them through effective stakeholder engagement.
The project is currently developing five study locations in three states. In each site, we seek to build local capacity, provide technical and coordination assistance and resources, and provide the biophysical information data necessary to meet study site priorities and develop their own strategies to address their long-term agriculture and water-related needs.
Running strong since 2006, the Global Ethnohydrology Study (GES) studies local cultural knowledge and coping with water insecurity and other challenges of living with climate change. To date, we have collected data in 20+ different countries, and at multiple sites within the US. The GES is a signature project that not only collects important research data, but also is committed to training cohorts of students in field collection and lab analysis of cultural data. Thousands of students and dozens of experts from an array of fields have participated. Some of the publications from this study can be found here.
Our team has been working with the larger HWISE-RCN network, gathering and evaluating evidence from multiple global sites to understand household-to-household water sharing is a common emergent social response to extreme water insecurity. We are testing how sharing might buffer households from the deleterious health effects that typically accompany seasonal water shortages, interruptions of water services, and natural disasters. But the team is also considering when expectations to engage in water sharing can also become burdensome and distressing. Water sharing is a virtually invisible aspect of global health, and we are excited to be advancing this new area of research.