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UA studies relationship between water poverty and inability to pay bills, resulting in potential supply cuts

Focusing on urban environments of the Mediterranean coast (Alicante, Murcia and Barcelona), it can be used to assist politicians in their roles as decision-makers

The economic dimension will allow us to quantify thresholds of water poverty conditions in households and understand this phenomenon to reduce the impact on the well-being of those affected





Unpaid invoices. Numbers of households with two or more arrears.

Social programmes for water poverty (Barcelona Metropolitan Area)

Families supported with social benefits and euros invested for Alicante and El Campello


Alicante, 11 December 2020

Water has started to trade this week on the Wall Street futures market. The rights of water use are quoted, which is something that may concern the public. Water poverty, associated with the inability to pay bills and the subsequent result of potential cuts in supply, is the subject studied by the University of Alicante's Land and Water Management research group. Belonging to the Interuniversity Institute of Geography, the group has started a project on the assessment of water poverty in urban environments on the Mediterranean coast: case studies (Alicante, Murcia and the metropolitan area of Barcelona), directed by UA Professor in Regional Geographical Analysis and Physical Geography María Hernández Hernández. The project, contributed by the UMU and the UAB, will end in May 2023.

Together with energy poverty, water poverty affects a growing number of households with the supply of a basic good, such as water, threatened. In the context of developed countries, water poverty appears not so much as a problem of access as of affordability or inability to pay bills resulting of potential supply cuts. In Spain, water poverty appeared strongly in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis and its devastating effects on the well-being of many families, combined with a high increase in water prices.

The main aim of the project is to define what is meant by water poverty. Also, the researchers will analyse and diagnose the impacts of water poverty from the population's point of view, such as coping with water payments; quantifying household water poverty thresholds in order to feature other dimensions and analysing the intersection of vulnerability factors in households; or analysing adaptation strategies by households, institutions, companies and civil society groups, among others.

They start from the assumption that water poverty encompasses several dimensions, not only the economic side. A multiple causality is involved, in which economic, demographic, social or gender factors interact and generate responses from those affected, as well as from institutions, water service companies and NGOs.

Ultimately, the study focuses on the analysis of adaptation strategies by households, institutions, companies and civil society groups. María Hernández explained that these days they are analysing water poverty locally, in the cities of Alicante, Murcia and the metropolitan area of Barcelona. According to her, the ultimate goal is to provide real data, so that politicians know how to act accordingly in their management.

With this study, it is expected to increase understanding of this phenomenon in the context of a Mediterranean country that has been greatly affected by a serious socio-economic crisis and use the knowledge acquired to reduce the impact of this phenomenon on the well-being of the affected households.

The project is financed by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, within a state programme for the generation of knowledge and scientific and technological strengthening of an R&D+i system oriented to the challenges of society announced in 2019. The universities of Murcia and the Autonomous University of Barcelona are also participating.



The newly initiated project builds on several foundations. The collaboration between researchers from the Land and Water Management research group and members of the Department of Geography at the Autonomous University of Barcelona working in a project funded by Aguas de Alicante (AMAEM) in 2016, which studied the decline in water consumption in the city of Alicante and the Barcelona Metropolitan Area as a result of both natural factors, such as droughts, and social factors, such as the economic crisis which began in 2008.

Later on, the participation of the principal researcher, María Hernández, in a network of excellence financed by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (MICINN) for the period 2018-2020 on water poverty, a network in which several Spanish universities participated: the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), the University of Seville, the University of Oviedo, the University of Granada and the Jaume I University of Castellón. Within this network, the UAB and the UA have coordinated the group working on water scarcity in Spain".



Members of the working group on water poverty in Spain, coordinated by the UAB and the UA, with the participation of the UPC, UOC, US, UO, UGR and UJI. A network of Excellence funded by the MICINN (Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities)






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