20 Aug 2022 Equality of access among households to water supplies that are clean and plentiful may owe as much or more to sustainable development practices than it does to socioeconomic factors, suggests research. A team of British and US academics studied more than 7,600 homes in 22 low- and middle-income nations to assess inequality of household water security and the factors impacting this. Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers suggest that this inequality imitates the so-called ‘Kuznets Curve’ used to describe patterns of economic development. In the economic arena, the Kuznets Curve hypothesises that during economic development, the action of markets increases economic inequality initially before this then shows a decrease over time. Likewise, the Environmental Kuznets Curve, developed in the 1990s, replaces economic inequality in favour of environmental pollution as its dependent variable. Similarly, say the scientists from Cardiff and Birmingham Universities working with colleagues from the North Carolina and Midwestern Universities in the USA, by using water inequality as the dependent variable, it can be shown that inequality first increases and then decreases. While economic inequality and environmental pollution are assumed to be growth-dependent the researchers assert in the article that “non-economic factors such as sustainable development levels may also be able to indicate or alter the distribution of resources and services”. Lead author of the research, Cardiff University’s Dr Feng Mao commented: “This research extends the conventional Kuznets Curve concept and encourages a more general rethink of development beyond economic terms.” With water security and equality of access recognised by the United Nations as a human right, UNESCO Chair in Water Science Professor of Hydrology David Hannah said of the research that it would have “practical implications for understanding and taking action on water security to achieve fairer, more inclusive and sustainable development of water for all.”
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