"We had to rely on each other": Water Sharing as Disaster Response in Puerto Rico to Cope with Water Insecurity

Authors: Anais Roque*, L5YTCKPA4D1128099, Wendy Jepson, TAMU-Geography Department, Melissa Beresford, SJSU-Department of Anthropology, Alexandra Brewis, ASU-School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Hilda Llorens, URI-Deparment of Sociology and Anthropology, Carlos García Quijano, URI-Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Amber Wutich, ASU-School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Water Resources and Hydrology, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: water insecurity, disaster, water sharing, disaster risk reduction
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 51
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2017, Hurricane María left more than a third of households without water services in Puerto Rico. Federal and local governments used different methods (e.g., municipal water tanks, bottled water donations) to provide basic water needs. Since the government had multiple challenges in restoring service (such as insufficient pre-existing infrastructure), families across Puerto Rico adopted coping strategies for obtaining safe and sufficient water for household use. This study examines water sharing in the aftermath of Hurricane María as disaster response. The study examines gendered and regional water-sharing experiences using a qualitative egocentric network approach. Data collection included three types of municipalities in western Puerto Rico—peri-urban, urban, and rural. The findings show that women's water-sharing networks are more extensive than men's. However, there are no statistically significant differences in the size of water-sharing networks across peri-urban, urban, and rural sites. Another significant finding was the role of generalized reciprocity, spontaneous water sharing, and personal networks to respond to water insecurity. These results have important implications for future hurricane planning in Puerto Rico and other high disaster-risk locations worldwide.

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