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.

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