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Identifying the water poor: an indicator approach to assessing water poverty in rural Mexico

Fenwick, C.; (2010) Identifying the water poor: an indicator approach to assessing water poverty in rural Mexico. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Water scarcity is the focus of considerable research emphasizing the vulnerability of communities to physical water supply. Recent approaches to the determination of water scarcity that incorporate social, economic and political factors with physical measures of water availability include the Water Poverty Index (WPI). Through a rigorous analysis that aims to analyze and contrast the results of the WPI with those determined through extensive fieldwork and community consultation, this research aims to fulfil the following core objectives: 1. to determine the impact of scale on water poverty assessments; 2. to test the robustness of the WPI and validate its accuracy as a measurement of water poverty; 3. to assess the ability of the WPI to accurately reflect local perceptions of water poverty. Mexico has an astounding array of water challenges where even areas with a natural abundance of water face difficulties in the provision of water supply. Particularly compelling is the region of Los Altos. Situated within Mexico's most water-rich state, access to water is exceptionally constrained. This contrast of scale was the incentive for selecting the rural communities of Pozuelos and El Mash to examine water poverty in detail. A careful examination of water poverty was first undertaken at the state level. Next, water poverty was assessed in the community through an extensive field study, comprising a thorough assessment of infrastructure, water quality analyses, researcher observations, informal interviews and participatory focus groups. These data provided the basis for calculating the WPI at the community scale. Analyses were then undertaken focusing on statistical correlations using Pearson's product moment correlation coefficient informed by researcher observations, regression analyses and community perceptions. As the only indicator to assess the multiple dimensions of water poverty, the WPI, by definition, is the best tool available. However, the issue of scale continues to be challenging whilst predictions of water poverty are complex and marred by subjectivity. A lack of consensus surrounding appropriate variables is problematic and inhibits comparisons across localities. Community perceptions of water poverty at the community level differ from results obtained using the WPI further questioning its reliability. Notwithstanding, the WPI highlights the need for a multi-dimensional approach to the determination of water poverty by demonstrating the lack of relationship between water resources availability and overall water poverty across scales. However, this research has demonstrated the complex nature of the WPI rendering its application in practice quite difficult.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Identifying the water poor: an indicator approach to assessing water poverty in rural Mexico
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering

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