The Making Water Insecurity Visible group aims to address major gaps in the measurement and visibility of the underlying issues driving the global water crisis by using ethnographies, surveys and biosensors to produce new data on water insecurity and issues of water quality.
About the Project
More than two billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services, yet there are major gaps in the measurement and visibility of the underlying issues driving the global water crisis, such as inadequate water infrastructure, demand exceeding supply or institutions failing to balance communities’ needs. This group seeks to shed new light on the water crisis by conducting social science research, engineering testing and remediation solutions and fostering policy conversations that translate data into action. The group will conduct research in the U.S., Mexico and Kenya, using ethnographies, surveys and biosensors to produce new data on water insecurity and issues of water quality. Learn more in our Buffett Brief on Making Water Insecurity Visible, or explore more Global Working Groups' research in our collection of Buffett Briefs >>
- Julius Lucks, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Northwestern McCormick School of Engineering
- Sera Young, Anthropology and Global Health, Northwestern Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
- William Dichtel, Chemistry, Northwestern Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
- Jean-François Gaillard, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northwestern McCormick School of Engineering
- Charlayne Mitchell, Global Health Studies, Northwestern Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
- Noelle Samia, Statistics and Data Science, Northwestern Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
- Robert Weinstock, Clinical Law, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
- Pablo Gaitán, Research Professor, Ibero-American University's Research Institute for Equitable Development (EQUIDE)
- Simon Thuo, Consultant, Alliance for Global Water Adaptation
Latest Work and Developments
- The National Science Foundation awarded a new Northwestern University study a $3 million grant that will enable the Making Water Insecurity Visible Global Working Group to expand upon their work in Chicago. The pilot study, led by group leaders Julius Lucks and Sera Young, will follow a phased roll-out of hand-held, easy-to-use test kits developed by the Lucks Laboratory to 350 Chicago-area households to assess their home water quality.
- In December 2023, group co-lead Sera Young, member Pablo Gaitán-Rossi and their collaborators will present "If climate change is a shark, water is its teeth: How water insecurity data can mobilize action"at the United Nations' annual climate change conference, COP28. They will reveal the first-ever picture of how water insecurity experiences covary with climate events. They will also describe how water insecurity data have been used to advocate for policy and infrastructural change, using examples from the group's research sites in Kenya and Mexico. This event was organized with the support of the Paula M. Trienens Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern.
- In April 2023, two members of the Making Water Insecurity Visible Global Working Group—Pablo Gaitán Rossi, director of Iberoamericana’s Research Institute for Equitable Development (EQUIDE), and group co-lead Sera Young—led a meeting that convened 60 thought leaders from across North and South America in Mexico City to discuss how better measurement can lead to global progress in public health.
- Following the Mexico City convening, policymakers in Nuevo León, Mexico committed to building the Water Insecurity Experiences (WISE) Scales, the development of which was led by Sera Young, into regular surveys of vulnerable populations in their state—effectively creating a playbook for other governmental entities within Mexico and around the world to follow.
- At the 2023 Foreign Policy Climate Summit, Sera Young discussed the Making Water Insecurity Visible group's unique approach to its mission during the summit's panel discussion on Strategies for Strengthening Water Insecurity, sharing her insights into how quantifying the types and degrees of water insecurity can inform strategies to more effectively address these vulnerabilities.