Narratives of Water Injustice across U.S. Urban Areas

Authors: Kiera O'Donnell, Northeastern University, Mariana Sarango*, Northeastern University, Sharon Harlan, Northeastern University, Nickolas Faynshteyn, Northeastern University, Stephanie Clark, Northeastern University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Hazards and Vulnerability, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: Environmental Justice, Water
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Borgne Room, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Extensive environmental justice (EJ) research demonstrates disproportionate exposure to environmental contaminants in communities of color and those that are economically disadvantaged. EJ water research has traditionally focused on exposure to pollutants disposed of by industrial, agricultural, commercial, and other entities. More recently, other water-related problems, such as flood hazard and limited access to basic water amenities, have emerged in the EJ literature as issues that disproportionately burden marginalized communities. Our study builds on this growing body of research by exploring community perspectives on water-related problems, benefits, inequities, and causes of inequity. Snowball sampling was employed to identify 35 community organizations in eight U.S. urban regions and semi-structured interviews were conducted with representatives of these organizations. Thematic content analysis of interview transcripts is used to highlight narratives of water injustices that emerge within and across the regions. Preliminary analyses have identified water cost, aging infrastructure, contamination, scarcity, flood risk and water-related displacement and gentrification as EJ issues that are disparately impacting low-income communities and people of color. This study will shed light on the water-related inequities that are experienced across cities in different regions of the country. We argue that social equity and environmental justice should be priorities for the design of sustainable urban water systems.

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