The relative influence of perceptions on multiple water source choice and use, and the subsequent impacts on water security

Lead Research Organisation: Cranfield University
Department Name: School of Water, Energy and Environment


The aim of this project is to understand the relative importance of perceptions in the choice and use of water sources in multiple source use settings. Further it seeks to assess the influence that these sources and choices have on community water security. The project uses sand dams in rural Kenya as a case study. The objectives of this project are to: Understand how multiple water sources are used throughout the year, Understand what factors influence quality and risk perceptions of multiple water sources and the subsequent impact that these perceptions have on source choice and water use relative tother factors, Understand the relative contribution that interventions such as sand dams make towards
improving water security in arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), Understand the way in which salinity varies between and within sand dam sites, the causes of these differences and the way in which this objective quality compares to perceived quality. These aims and objectives were designed to address several research gaps. These were: 1) the seasonal variations in multiple source choice and volume use; 2) how quality and risk perceptions of water sources translate into behaviours; 3) which factors are relatively most influential when judging a water source and 4) whether sand dams provide a year-round supply of water. The project, by providing insight into the impact that perceptions have on the use of multiple sources,
looking specifically at sand dam communities, helps to address these gaps. It also conforms to the EPSRC Water Engineering Research Area, adding to research on water security and resilience. Multiple Source Use (MSU) - the practice of using more than one water source during a year - is documented in lower-middle-income countries from Sub-Saharan Africa to Pacific Island Countries (Elliott et al., 2017). However, with a lack of recognition in research and monitoring, ourunderstanding of water use behaviours and the success of water interventions is limited (Vedachalam et al., 2017). Multiple factors influence source choice and subsequent water security, quality and risk perceptions among them. Understanding the weight that people place on these perceptions when making these decisions is therefore important for designing water supply interventions as there is little merit in implementing a high quality source if people do not perceive is as such. Whilst the data collection for this project is rooted in Kenya, the objectives and findings will have global reach. Firstly, understanding what drives people's perceptions of the quality and risk their water sources has relevance outside of lower-middle-income countries as this knowledge can help to shape policies in upper-income countries where water users often make choices between tapped and bottled water. Additionally, by indicating the relative importance of different factors in water source choice NGOs and governments might be encouraged to consider these factors when implementing water programmes, treatment types and campaigns. A focus on sand dams as a case study was chosen due to practicalities: availability of abstraction data and strong partnerships with a sand dam organisation, and suitability: accounts of perceived and measured salinity and the practice of MSU. The study therefore adeptly incorporates MSU, perceptions and water security. Sand dams are a low-cost arid and semi-arid land technology, with the majority (over 1,500) found in Kenya (Trincheria et al., 2015). However, where over 40% of the earth's land surface shows potential for sand dam implementation (Maddrell and Neal, 2012), their reach could be much greater. Finally, this project hopes to suggest measures to mitigate the impacts of salinity in hand pumps at sand dam sites and in wider ASAL settings in order to increase the acceptability of water by communities.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S022066/1 31/05/2019 30/11/2027
2276633 Studentship EP/S022066/1 29/09/2019 15/03/2024 Hannah Nicola Ritchie