Characterizing water scarcity in Africa at different scales

Type Journal Article - Journal of Environmental Management
Title Characterizing water scarcity in Africa at different scales
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2004
In this paper, we present a multi-scaled approach to assessing water scarcity and
the impact that inadequate access to water and sanitation has on human well-being. We
investigated water stress within the Lake Victoria basin at a 6-minute and 1.5-minute
resolution, assessed the adequacy of access to water and sanitation at the district level and
explored the implications of our findings with respect to human health. We found that
even though there are seasonal wet and dry periods, water stress (as indicated by the ratio
of water demand to renewable water resources) is low for 90% of the population within
the Lake Victoria basin. The real impacts to human well-being in the basin are related to
household access to water and sanitation and the consequent risks to human health. More
than 80% of the densely populated districts had poor access to safe water, whereas, only
25% of these districts were shown to have poor access to sanitation. We found that
virtually all of the districts reporting cholera cases for the period 1997-2001 were shown
to have moderate to high health risk due to poor access to both safe water and sanitation.
We also found a strong correlation between cholera outbreaks and the proportion of
people living within 2 km of Lake Victoria. This study highlights an emerging capacity to
merge socioeconomic information and high resolution geophysical datasets as well as the
need for finer resolution, focussed studies for assessing the links between human wellbeing
and the environment.

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