TA5 – Water and Health


AT5 focuses on the links between water and environmental and human health in their diverse manifestations. It aims to contribute to the production of knowledge oriented by the Network’s Objectives y Research Priorities.

A key sub-area of TA5 looks at the relationship between essential water and sanitation services and human health. Traditionally, access to water and sanitation in terms of coverage –not necessarily in terms of quality– has been considered to be a requisite condition for human wellbeing and good health. However, when we analise the access to these services, we also need to look at their quality and distribution among different social groups. Also, from the perspective of the social determination of health, it is well known that the state of poverty in a particular society reproduces and perpetuates inequities that have been socially constructed, which seem to justify a sort of hopeless social determinism for the most vulnerable groups. Also, in addition to the problem of social vulnerabilization, the current hydrological dynamics of water has been affected by a new global environmental stressor: climate change and variability. This stressor exacerbates the effects of events of “extreme water abundance” and “scarcity” on different social groups, which affect more severely those vulnerable communities usually located in territories with poor environmental quality and lacking access to essential water and sanitation services. Thus, although the link between water and health may seem obvious, the sustainability question –and not just the traditional technocratic emphasis on quantity and quality– emerges, ultimately, as vital for guaranteeing human health. Thus, there are two dimensions that need to be considered in facing the problems affecting the access to water san sanitation services and health: on the one hand, social inequality associated with living conditions and the state of poverty and, on the other, the question of sustainability. Addressing these two dimensions requires looking into the political, socio-economic, cultural, and social-justice categories that, in the end, constitute the structural determination of the current status quo of inequity which continues to affect many human communities.


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