Barriers to accessing emergency water infrastructure: Lessons from Flint, Michigan

Melissa Heil
Department of Geography, Geology, and the Environment, Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA; mkheil@ilstu.edu

ABSTRACT: Several high-profile cases of water service interruption have occurred in United States communities over the last decade, halting the usual operations of water infrastructures. In these situations, governments and NGOs have created emergency water infrastructures, such as bottled water distribution sites, to meet residents' water needs. This paper examines the accessibility of such emergency water distribution sites by analysing the case of Flint, Michigan. Drawing on interviews with community leaders in Flint who administered the city's bottled water distribution programmes, this paper identifies barriers to access in the city's emergency water infrastructure that stem from and deepen pre-existing socio-spatial inequality. This research identifies the need for government emergency preparedness guidance to incorporate a more comprehensive notion of accessibility that considers the social, political, and economic factors that affect the usability of these sites.

KEYWORDS: Water, Disaster Response, Infrastructure, Accessibility, Flint, USA