Towards Safe Drinking Water for All
This event is in association with the Oxford Water Network
Safe water, sanitation and hygiene are essential to safeguard health and save lives in low-income countries. The last several decades have seen many innovations in the development of low-cost and efficacious safe water technologies, most of which have been household-level treatments. In general, low-income households have not adopted such technologies at scale. In this talk Prof. Ray argues that public health researchers (including herself) have had too simplistic an understanding of poverty. They have not rooted their work in insights into the lived experience of poverty, with its uncertainties, stresses from constant scarcity, and attendant fears. Such insights are central to understanding why technologies for safe water remain unused by so many households who could benefit from them. Rather than improved versions of household-scale delivery models, transformative investments in safe water “for all” require utility-scale services. Until then, research should focus only on interim safe water options that are on the pathway towards the utility model.
Isha Ray is a Professor at the Energy and Resources Group, UC Berkeley, and also serves as the Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion at the Rausser College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley. Dr. Ray’s research interests are water and development; sanitation and development; and technology and society. Her research projects focus on access to safe and affordable water and sanitation for the rural and urban poor, and on the roles of technology in advancing (or hindering) sustainable development and social equity. She and her students have worked with low-income communities on access to water, sanitation, energy, and information technologies in India, China, Turkey, Mexico, Tanzania and California’s Central Valley. Dr. Ray served on the Editorial Committee of the Annual Review of Environment and Resources from 2003 to 2013, is currently a reviewer for 15 peer-reviewed journals, and frequently serves as an Expert Group adviser to UN Women and UNESCO. She has a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University, and a PhD in Applied Economics from Stanford University.