The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Seasonal Water Insecurity in Urban Philippines: Household Disparities and the Role of Gender and Resources

Sunday, January 19, 2014: 8:45 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 103A Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Lisa Reyes Mason, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Saint Louis, MO
Background and Purpose.Seasonal water insecurity is of growing concern in many urban areas, due in part to urbanization, population growth, and environmental change. In 2000, the global urban population affected was 312 million people. By 2050, this number is projected to reach 1.3 billion. While the consequences of water insecurity are well-known, its social dimensions and determinants are less understood. Regional and national water statistics often mask heterogeneities in water insecurity that exist among a population. Gender and resources—broadly theorized to matter for environmental change outcomes—have been little studied in relation to seasonal and urban water insecurity. This study asks: (1) How do the extent and nature of household water insecurity compare during the dry and rainy seasons in an urban Philippine neighborhood, and (2) How are gender, financial resources, and physical resources associated with household water insecurity by season?

Methods. Data are from randomly-sampled household surveys (N=396), using a proportionate stratified sampling design. Analyses include Wilcoxon Signed-Rank and McNemar’s chi-square tests, and multiple regression with survey methodologies. Four dependent variables measure separate water insecurity dimensions by season: reported consumption, perceived cleanliness, perceived ease, and affordability. Independent variables are the gender of the household water manager, financial resources of household income and savings, and physical resources of household water storage capacity in tanks/drums and piped connection to the water utility. Control variables are other characteristics of the household water manager and household size.

Results. Water insecurity varies widely among households in this study. Differences are more pronounced in the dry than rainy season. Although mean reported consumption is above 50 liters per capita per day in both seasons, many households report much lower consumption. Perceived cleanliness of water is higher in the dry than rainy season by 0.6 points (11-point scale; p<.001). Perceived ease, meanwhile, is lower in the dry season by 1.7 points (11-point scale; p<.001). Affordability of water is worse in the dry season (p=.006), and about half of households spend over 5% of their income on water. Multiple regression finds few associations between dependent variables and gender or savings. Regression finds, however, that (1) income is positively associated with reported consumption and affordability in both seasons (p<.001); (2) water storage capacity is positively associated with reported consumption in both seasons (p<.001) and perceived cleanliness in the dry season (p<.05), and negatively associated with affordability in the dry season (p<.05); and (3) having a private connection to the utility, compared to no connection, is positively associated with reported consumption in both seasons (p<.01), perceived cleanliness in the dry season (p<.01), perceived ease in both seasons (p<.01), and affordability in the dry season (p<.05).

Conclusions and Implications. This study finds important disparities in household water insecurity which vary by season.  Associations between household water insecurity and income, water storage capacity, and private utility connections point to programs and policies that can foster more equitable resource distribution among households. Future research may examine if minimum thresholds for these resources, or optimal combinations of resources, may matter most.