Water Borrowing: An Invisible, Global Coping Strategy for Household Water Issues


In much of the world, safe drinking water is unavailable in people’s homes. When water is not available from managed sources people need to acquire water in other ways.

Nearly two billion people worldwide lack access to a safe, managed water supply. Despite decades of research on how people cope with this problem, the practice of borrowing water from a neighbor has been studied only recently.

A team of researchers led by Asher Rosinger, assistant professor of biobehavioral health and anthropology at Penn State, found in a recent study that water borrowing is a common coping strategy around the world and that the practice may be costly for the borrower. Rosinger added that because of the problems associated with lack of access to safe water, understanding how people acquire water is critical to understanding the health and well-being of these communities.

“Over two billion people around the world lack access to safely managed water,” Rosinger, who directs the Water, Health, and Nutrition Laboratory, explained. “The health implications of not having access to clean water range from increased diarrheal diseases and dehydration to the safety risks for the people who have to retrieve the water. A lot of times, the retrieval task falls to women and children.”

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