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Who carries the weight of water? Fetching water in rural and urban areas and the implications for water security

Jo-Anne Geere
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom jo.geere@uea.ac.uk

Moa Cortobius
UNDP-SIWI Water Governance Facility, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Stockholm, Sweden moa.cortobius@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: The global burden of fetching water, particularly its effects on individuals and societies, is largely unknown because comparative analysis of the global data available is incomplete and scarce. To address this information gap, this article presents a synthesis of the data on water-fetching from households in 23 countries. In rural areas of the dataset almost 50% of the population still have to bring water from a source outside of their home or yard. Women generally carry the main responsibility for fetching water; however, in many countries and in particular in urban areas, men also take on a great share of this work. The mean single trip time to collect water ranges from 10 to 65 minutes in urban areas with an average increase or decrease of 2 to 13 minutes in rural areas. Further, up to 60% of children support the collection of wood and water, in some countries spending up to 11.3 hours per week. Water fetching continues to have the greatest impact on women and children in poorer rural areas and is likely to be a substantial barrier to household water security and sustainable development in regions most in need of sustainable development.

KEYWORDS: Water fetching, MICs surveys, global data, time, health impacts