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Understanding the Alliance Between Water, Poverty, and COVID-19

Shekinah Gonzales · stgonza2@uncg · Strong Residential College

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Understanding water insecurity and its alliance to poverty can help to better understand the inability to properly fight off the COVID-19 disease and the disproportionate rate of infection seen in lower-income communities. It can also make clear the patterns from which a household’s response to a crisis in terms of water can be predicted.

Water Insecurity

Water insecurity can be measured by surveying access to adequate amounts of safe and affordable water People who suffer from water insecurity either do not have enough water and/or safe water to perform everyday activities When considering water insecurity, it is important to be mindful of the physical, mental, or emotional impacts

Households in poverty are more likely to experience water insecurity due to not being able to pay monthly water or utility bills. Households that can afford the previously mentioned expenses may not be able to afford treatment for non-potable water or repairs to damaged water infrastructures.

Water and Poverty

COVID-19 Due to Water Insecurity

Conclusion (Abstract)


E. A. Meyerowitz, A. Richterman , R. T. Gandhi and P. E. Sax, “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2: a review of viral, host, and environmental factors,” Annals of internal medicine, 2020. Hannah, D.M., Lynch, I., Mao, F. et al. Water and sanitation for all in a pandemic. Nat Sustain 3, 773–775 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-0593-7

Some of our nation’s most vulnerable communities are more susceptible to viruses because of poverty that has resulted in unequal rights and retrieval of clean water.

I am a sophomore majoring in Anthropology and Sociology with a minor in African American and African Diaspora Studies. My project relates to my academic pursuits and personal aspirations as I hope to enter marginalized communities and engage with the populations to help bring awareness to and resources for the issues they may face.

About the Researcher

Personal hygiene Lack of clean water prevents handwashing and bathing which can not only prevent COVID but other viral diseases. Water will also not be available for taking medicine or sustaining hydration. Sanitation and Hygiene Households experiencing water insecurity may be unable may also be unable flush their toilets, complete laundry, wash dishes or more that could prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces and materials or inactivate the virus. Physical distancing Thus these households will be more likely to seek water from outside of their homes. This could look like visiting laundry mats, frequently visiting grocery stores and markets, visiting the homes of others to bath or eat plus more actions that require visiting populated areas and spaces.  Economic Hardship/Mental well-being   Having to purchase bottled water, travel to retrieve water or  to the home of others, and more adds onto economic hardship experienced by those in these circumstances.  All these instances of being water insecure can lead to increased feelings of stress, shame, and guilt-- especially in those who have been given or must take on the responsibility of strategizing ways to retrieve water.

Water Insecurity and COVID-19

A large part of preventing the spread of the COVID- 19 has been relying on families and individuals to practice personal hygiene and household sanitation  through acts like handwashing and sanitizing surfaces.  Additionally, they are tasked to practice social distancing and remaining home.


When interviewed several people reported the following: Not knowing of resources to assist with water insecurity An experienced in which they had to visit another home to bathe or do laundry Associating feelings of embarassment and stress with water insecurity