Workshop on Measuring Household Water Insecurity takes place in London

On 17 July 2019, the HWISE Research Coordination Network and the International Water Security Network (IWSN) hosted a workshop entitled ‘Measuring Household Water Insecurity’ at the Royal Geographical Society in London. It was attended by around 20 academics and representatives of NGOs in the development sector, and aimed to introduce the HWISE (Household Water InSecurity Experience) scale, the first cross-culturally validated scale to measure household water insecurity.

Thanti Octavianti, a Research Fellow with the IWSN at UWE Bristol, set the scene by talking through the available metrics to measure water security status. As most water metrics operate at the national level, the HWISE scale can complement the better known JMP (Joint Monitoring Programme) survey, which assesses drinking water security at the household, community and national scales.

Josh Miller, the HWISE Research Coordinator, presented the historical development of the HWISE scale leading to the current 12-item scale. Having now been implemented in 30 sites in 24 countries, Josh also noted that HWISE would soon be integrated into the Gallup World Poll 2020, a longstanding global survey initiative incorporating a wide range of issues, such as education and health, in more than 140 countries.

Jaynie Whinnery and Jola Miziniak from Oxfam shared their experience of using the HWISE scale in Lusaka, Zambia and North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They commented that the scale was relatively easy to implement, with the core 12-question module taking around 3-5 minutes. In their survey, the scale was integrated with other modules, covering issues including sanitation, wellbeing and trust in government.

In the afternoon session, practitioners such as Sean Furey from Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) and Nicola Floyd from WaterHarvest, shared their views on both HWISE and on what they need from water metrics. Overall, they showed great interest in implementing the HWISE scale.

The workshop participants then discussed some challenges in implementing the scale, such as the technicalities of the survey and the capacity to analyse the data, and how they can be supported by the HWISE research community. This discussion followed some critical reflection on the scale provided by Dr. Jed Stevenson, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Global Health at Durham University. One of the points he raised is the need to pay attention to the qualitative characteristics of localities, such as complementing the survey with other ethnographical methods.

Dr Deidre Toher, Senior Lecturer in Statistics at UWE, explained one approach to analyse the HWISE data: using Classification And Regression Trees (CART) as a non-linear modelling technique. Using data from four HWISE global sites, she demonstrated how the model can be used to discern patterns of technological choices related to water in particular communities.

The workshop ended with a tour around the historic Royal Geographical Society building led by IWSN Director Prof. Chad Staddon, who is a Fellow of the Society.