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Water insecurity presents many problems in the world, no matter the location. To not have continued, reliable access to acceptable quality water poses what seems to be a never-ending dilemma as it is to the effects of consuming unsafe drinking water. One detrimental problem, in particular, is caused by agriculture. It is inexorable to completely rid of the process of cultivation, although farming and irrigation is a necessity all over the world in order for people to survive. Agriculture is one of the biggest culprits of the lack of freshwater for many places in the world; this process has been measured to use up to 70% of the world’s accessible freshwater, and on top of that, at least 60% of that freshwater is dissipated due to faulty irrigation systems and certain types of plants being grown (www.worldwildlife.org). These crops may be unsuitable for the environment in which they’re being grown, as they often require more water than the land can provide. All of this is drying out clean, fresh water in underground aquifers and rivers that could have otherwise been used in rural places. Furthermore, any crop enhancers that may be potentially used may magnify the intensity of water pollution, making matters worse. If farmers aren’t harvesting crops with the rest of the world in mind and recognizing how food is essential in everybody’s lives, the problem of water insecurity will continue to escalate and never be controlled.
The phrase “water insecurity” is the opposite of the phrase “water security”, of which the Sustainable Water Partnership defines as “the adaptive capacity to safeguard the sustainable availability of, access to, and safe use of an adequate reliable and resilient quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods, ecosystems and productive economies” (www.swpwater.org). To be insecure simply means that there is not enough access to water distribution systems or a shortage of water supply. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 states that ‘clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in,’ that safe water is a right that all humans should have (Marcantonio 1). Inappropriately handled, dirty water can expose individuals to otherwise preventable health risks and lead to the transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, just to name a few (www.who.int). Especially if persons affected are in a country or area with scarce resources, these diseases can often become deadly. This problem is occurring all over the world, especially in developing countries, but is affecting most of Africa, parts of South America, and parts of the Caribbean (www.international.gc.ca).
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It is estimated that Sub Saharan Africa alone spends over 40 billion hours a year collecting water (thewaterproject.org). This task is physically taxing and understandably grueling; members of villages and communities who are physically able to work are often sent traveling tiresome journeys simply locating and transporting water from place to place. Even children are given the task of retrieving water, which neglects them from any chance at formal education. The cultural aspect of women and children that is expected of them to provide water for their families is a part of a discriminatory factor regarding water retrieval completely neglects their potential to be in the workforce and “contributing to their [families’] income and their country’s gross domestic product” (Keefer, Bousalis 256). Women make up over 60 percent of the illiterate population worldwide as a result of their role in society to obtain water, not to mention their lack of political power, which contributes to one of the reasons why it is so hard for them to fit into some sort of economic status (257). This results in a vicious cycle since that means there is not enough financial stability in order to purchase water from truck drivers. Others may rely on water in order to generate revenue to support their family, crafting beverages to sell at the local market on the weekends; however, without adequate safe water, “almost half of household heads (47%) lost income due to the time it took to collect water sufficient to meet household needs” (Wutich, Ragsdale 2120). This leads to many residents unable to utilize survival strategies, such as tending farmland in order for the poor to support themselves, whether it be selling the yielded crops for profit or to be consumed by the families.
Does the proportion between women and children doing most of the labor vary from location to location? Why is it that females are given the menial task of fetching water from miles and miles away when they are responsible for reproducing and the job increases the likelihood of transmitting any waterborne illnesses from generation to generation? Which ethnic group has been affected the most by water insecurity and why is this so? Could there ever be a possibility that gender roles were reversed in society, even as an experiment that researchers use to aid their studies?
Within Africa, where are there places that are water insecure? Can less-fortunate areas of the continent attempt to model their geography, culture, or society in order to help alleviate their lack of access to clean, safe water? If there is a place that is not perceived to be a good place to live due to its surroundings, how can society help to adapt in order to make the area more economically stable, in order to prevent any possibility of water insecurities in the future?
Because water insecurity is often accompanied by negative experiences and emotions, can psychologists or others help be employed in order to help alleviate any social tensions surrounding accessing water?
Review of the Research
The majority of research that I have done has been largely focused on one continent of the world: Africa. Many articles provided by the United Nations and other National Governmental Organizations, as well as scholarly articles retrieved from EBSCOhost and Google Scholar, have to do with dealing with the harmful effects on water insecurity, as well as emphasizing the necessity for adequate infrastructure. Different approaches to water insecurity are highly discussed in the research I have come across, but a big part is within the surveys and studies done on the persons who are living in the water-polluted areas. There are analyses on local relevant experiences of water insecurity including a significant amount containing women. I have also looked into case studies, usually done by taking a deeper look at the water insecurity in specific areas within developing countries, how much water the people there are using, and social as well as mental aspects of retrieving water. I plan to focus my research on the psychological effects of water acquisition, the social challenges that individuals face, as well as any infrastructure that can be possibly implemented in order to combat the issue. Most of the information I have found so far has involved looking up statistics in UN-related organizations’ websites, searching the topic on EBSCOhost, as well as utilizing Google Scholar.
- “Water Scarcity.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund, https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity. Accessed 7 September 2019.
- “Sustainable Water Partnership: What Is Water Security?” Visit the USAID Website, https://www.swpwater.org/what-is-water-security/. Accessed 7 September 2019.
- Marcantonio, Richard A. “Water Insecurity, Illness and Other Factors of Everyday Life: A Case Study from Choma District, Southern Province, Zambia.” Water SA, vol. 44, no. 4, Oct. 2018, pp. 653–663. EBSCOhost, doi:10.4314/wsa.v44i4.14. Accessed 7 September 2019.
- “Drinking-Water.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/drinking-water. Accessed 7 September 2019
- Global Affairs Canada – Affaires. “Water in Developing Countries.” GAC, 26 July 2017, https://www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/issues_development-enjeux_developpement/environmental_protection-protection_environnement/water-eau.aspx?lang=eng. Accessed 8 September 2019.
- “The Water Crisis: Poverty and Water Scarcity in Africa.” The Water Project, https://thewaterproject.org/why-water/poverty. Accessed 8 September 2019.
- Keefer, Natalie, and Rina Bousalis. “How Do You Get Your Water? Structural Violence Pedagogy and Women’s Access to Water.” Social Studies, vol. 106, no. 6, Nov. 2015, pp. 256–263. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/00377996.2015.1072793. Accessed 8 September 2019.
- Stevenson, Edward G.J., et al. “Water insecurity in 3 dimensions: An anthropological perspective on water and women’s psychosocial distress in Ethiopia.” Soc Sci Med. 2012 July ; 75(2): 392–400. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.03.022. Accessed 8 September 2019.
- Wutich, Amber, and Kathleen Ragsdale. “Water insecurity and emotional distress: coping with supply, access, and seasonal variability of water in a Bolivian squatter settlement.” Social science & medicine 67.12 (2008): 2116-2125. Accessed 8 September 2019.
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