Assessing Access to Clean Water in Rural Communities

Rural, remote and marginalized (RRM) communities can face a lack of clean drinking water and poor sanitation. This research complies a set of indicators to provide an assessment of water security in these communities.

McMaster Researcher


Dickson, S. E., Schuster-Wallace, C. J., & Newton, J. J. (2016). Water Security Assessment Indicators: The Rural Context. Water Resources Management, 30(5), 1567-1604.

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What is this research about?

There are over 740 million people who do not have access to clean drinking water, the majority of whom are from RRM communities. Water security in these communities is defined as sustainable access to affordable and reliable quantities of water, of suitable quality, to enable all residents to lead healthy lives. This research identifies and organizes water security indicators according to their usefulness on a local scale, particularly in RRM communities. This ultimately provides an integrated, community-based assessment tool for assessing water security in rural and remote settings.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers conducted a review of the literature, inventoried and synthesized existing water security indicators, and suggested additional indicators required to provide a complete, holistic assessment of water security in RRM communities.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers compiled indicators of water security, which form the bases for an integrated, community-based water security assessment tool for RRM communities, and organized them into six categories:

  • Water Resources- Used to assess the quantity, quality and variability of the water resources in a community
  • Environment- The environmental demand of water that is required to maintain environmental integrity and support the ecosystem
  • Water Delivery System- Assesses the infrastructure that is in place to collect, treat, transport, and manage water. 
  • Community Capacity & Capital- Indicators that evaluate the knowledge, financial capital, social capital, and governmental policies in a community
  • Access and Equity- Evaluates the ability of a community to obtain services related to water
  • Health and Wellbeing- Includes measures related to the health of a community and the behavioral practices related to water among residents


How can you use this research?

This research can be used by Canadian organizations that assess and manage water resources, including municipal governments, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in Ontario. It will also be of use to international organizations which advise on and support water policy and planning, including, for example, The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Finally, it is useful to RRM communities who must manage their own water security. 

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