Rich US cities wrestle to supply working water for all residents

San Francisco

Some residents of San Francisco are in water poverty

Wenjie Dong/Getty Images

Widening wealth gaps in some of the richest cities in the US have produced a rise in the number of households without running water.

Public information suggests that about half a million households in the US – about 1.1 million people – live without piped water, which places them in “plumbing poverty”. Surveys also show that 73 per cent of these households are found in metropolitan areas.

To investigate further, Katie Meehan at King’s College London – previously at the University of Oregon – and her colleagues analysed US census data, and information relating to the country’s 50 largest metropolitan areas collected during the government’s American Community Survey between 2013 and 2017.

This showed that San Francisco in California, Portland in Oregon and Austin in Texas are among the cities with the highest rates of plumbing poverty. New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco – among the wealthiest US cities – recorded the most overall residents without complete plumbing.

Meehan and her colleagues say there is a strong connection between this plumbing poverty and growing income inequality in cities.

They found that for every 10 per cent increase in income inequality in the 50 largest metropolitan areas, measured using a standard statistical metric called the Gini coefficient, households were 1.5 times more likely to lack “complete plumbing” – defined as a house supplied by both hot and cold piped water with a bath or shower used only by the occupants.

“In areas that are characterised by income inequality, we see some of the highest rates of plumbing poverty,” says Meehan.

What’s more, people without access to piped water were significantly more likely to be living in rented accommodation and to be using more than of a third of their income to pay rent.

Urban households headed by black people were almost 35 per cent more likely to lack piped water compared with households headed by non-Hispanic white people.

Although surveys suggest that there are almost half a million US households without water access, Meehan says this is likely to be an undercount, because census surveys routinely have trouble recording renters, the homeless, and black people.

“I think that conditions of water access will actually deteriorate, and the places where I think it will get worse are not the places we may first think of, like the San Franciscos, the Portlands or the Los Angeleses,” she says.

Focusing on individual cities and households will help reveal what exactly is causing water insecurity, says Meehan. “That’s the next step in research.”


Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button