HWISE Scale: A cross-culturally validated scale to measure household water insecurity

Author:  Josh Miller, HWISE Data Coordinator, Northwestern University

Currently, four billion people face severe water scarcity for at least one month each year. As such, the World Economic Forum has ranked water crises as being among the highest global risks to society and the economy. While we can measure water scarcity at the level of the nation or state, it has long been impossible to measure water insecurity at the level where it is experienced: the household. For this reason, our consortium of over 40 researchers has developed the first cross-nationally validated instrument to measure household water security: the Household Water Insecurity Experiences (HWISE) Scale. In order to identify the experiences most salient across diverse cultural and ecological settings, we implemented the HWISE Scale in 28 sites, representing over 20 counties.

HWISE Scale Map

Map of sites where the HWISE Scale has been implemented.

The HWISE Scale offers a finer resolution measurement of water insecurity, which is critical for identifying vulnerable populations, allocating resources, and evaluating the impacts and cost-effectiveness of water-related interventions and policies. Further, the short, easy-to-use HWISE Scale fills a measurement gap identified by the UN in its Water Action Decade (2018-2028) plan. By the end of 2018, we hope to release the scale for use by researchers, policymakers, NGOs, and program implementers.

HWISE Researchers in Torréon, MX

“Inseguridad del Agua en La Laguna: Una Nueva Visión de Contexto”

Researchers from Texas A&M University and El Colegio de la Frontera Norte will present HWISE research from Urban Mexico and Urban Brazil at the Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila. Dr. Wendy Jepson from Texas A&M University will present, “Preliminary comparative analysis of household water insecurity: Urban Mexico and Urban Brazil,” while fellow HWISE RCN members Dr. Javier Morán Martínez from Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila Unidad Torreón will present on, “Una visión sobre arsénico y agua en la Laguna” and Dr. Felipe Javier Uribe Salas from El Colegio de la Frontera Norte on “Estimación del peso de la enfemedad diarreica asociada a agua y saneamiento en el hogar en Torreón, Coahuila.”

This research is part of the Household Water Insecurity Experiences collaboration and is funded through a CONACYT grant.


Poster (8)

HWISE Scholar Highlight – Dr. Ellis Adjei Adams


Dr. Ellis Adjei Adams is an Assistant Professor of Global Studies and Geosciences at Georgia State University. He serves on the HWISE-RCN steering committee and is an early career scholar. His research lies at the intersection of human-environment interactions in cities, poor urban and peri-urban, and informal settlements of Sub-Saharan Africa.

He is currently involved in two projects. The first builds on his dissertation and explores the role of social learning and co-production in the sustainability of community-public partnerships models for water delivery in urban and peri-urban informal settlements. The second project draws insights from actor-oriented political ecology to examine the complex interplay of water resources and land-tenure systems in recent large-scale land acquisitions for agricultural production in Ghana, focusing on the motivations, information asymmetries, power relations and conflicts between and among such actors as agricultural investors, traditional leaders, smallholder farmers, and communities whose livelihoods depend on water and land.

Latest Publications:

  • Adams, E. A., & Boateng, G. O. (2018). Are urban informal communities capable of co-production? The influence of community–public partnerships on water access in Lilongwe, Malawi. Environment and Urbanization. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0956247818792059
  • Adams, E. A. (2018). Intra-urban inequalities in water access among households in Malawi’s informal settlements: Toward pro-poor urban water policies in Africa. Environmental Development. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envdev.2018.03.004
  • Adams, E. A. (2017). Thirsty slums in African cities: household water insecurity in urban informal settlements of Lilongwe, Malawi. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2017.1322941

AAG 2019 HWISE Call for Papers

This year the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting will be in Washington D.C. (April 3-7 2019), and we are planning a day of events to officially launch and celebrate the HWISE RCN community of scholars.  We are seeking empirical papers that address the multi-faceted dimensions of water insecurity experiences at the household scale.

If you are interested, please email name, affiliation, title, abstract and keywords to the HWISE RCN email contact (hwise.rcn@gmail.com). Our goal is to have presenters selected and program developed by the end of October.  If you have any questions, please contact Wendy Jepson (wjepson@tamu.edu).

We propose several sessions that emphasize major themes and approaches:

We have two sessions​ on the following topics:

  1. Methodological Advances​, including research outcomes or results that employ visual, participatory, VGI, geospatial, quantitative and other epistemological research to address household water insecurity experiences.
  2. Thematic​ ​Engagements​, with HWISE that may include or intersect with a broad range of empirical work addressing cross-cutting themes that address sanitation, knowledge systems, environmental justice, informality and urban infrastructure, intersectionality and gender, health-place-environment interaction, resiliency, environmentality, state-society relations, or governance.

A third paper session​ will profile research findings that draw from the HWISE global dataset (​hwise.org​) and HWISE scale, a cross culturally validated scale that has been developed in the last two years. These papers will address a broad range of interdisciplinary analyses that demonstrate the application of the scale to a variety of problems. Researchers in this session are contributors to the HWISE dataset and part of the NSF-funded HWISE RCN (​hwise-rcn.org​). If you are able to contribute to this please follow the submission guidelines above.

A ​fourth session​ will be a panel with on developing an interdisciplinary mentoring community of practice for early career scholars. The panel will include a range of participants from various career stages to discuss best practices, lessons, and challenges navigating dynamic collaborations.

Participants in the sessions will be invited to participate in ​a fifth session (closed) ​to discuss publication opportunities, workshop papers, and critically reflect on the work presented. We will also discuss the cross-cutting themes and directions for the RCN in the next year.

We will end the day with a ​reception open to all​ to launch HWISE Research Coordination Network.