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Water access transformations: Metrics, infrastructure, and inequities

Stevenson, Edward G.J.

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Scholarship on water insecurity has carried over an important insight from studies of food insecurity: Insecurity often occurs in the midst of plenty, and water insecurity is therefore better characterized by inaccessibility than by scarcity. Access to clean, adequate, and reliable water is, however, more challenging to systematize than access to food. In this paper, I ask what we can learn from situations in which arrangements for water access are undergoing rapid change, and I make a case for the centrality of infrastructure – systems of water storage and transport – to water security. Equitable access to water often depends on technologies that protect, filter, and distribute water; it also depends on social arrangements that protect the least powerful from exclusion. I analyse two water infrastructure projects in Ethiopia, one a project to protect village water supplies and the other a large hydroelectric dam. The project to protect springs used by villagers for household water supply had the unintended effect of limiting access to those who could pay fees to a water committee. The dam harnessed water to produce electricity and supply irrigated plantations, but deprived downstream communities of water for farming. Water infrastructure can have far-reaching implications for water access, both for better and for worse. It is often instrumental in securing one group’s access to water at the cost of another’s.


Stevenson, E. G. (2019). Water access transformations: Metrics, infrastructure, and inequities. Water Security, 8, Article 100047.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 16, 2019
Online Publication Date Nov 14, 2019
Publication Date Dec 31, 2019
Deposit Date Dec 6, 2019
Publicly Available Date Nov 14, 2020
Journal Water security.
Print ISSN 2468-3124
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Article Number 100047


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