Social Aspects of Water Scarcity and Drought

Authored by: Johanna Hohenthal , Paola Minoia

Handbook of Drought and Water Scarcity

Print publication date:  July  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781498731027
eBook ISBN: 9781315404219
Adobe ISBN:


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Water scarcity and droughts are socio-environmental hazards that affect the lives of millions of people every year. This chapter examines the multifaceted dimensions of these phenomena and their implications to human societies. Various aspects will be considered, including their relation with climate change and economic and sociopolitical dimensions, under the main focus of development studies. The introductory part discusses water scarcity and drought in the light of the international development goals and global environmental change. The second part will provide some popular definitions of concepts and measures, that is, water scarcity/stress indicators and management strategies, water poverty, and drought. The third part will consider relevant socio-environmental concepts that are discussed in the literature such as vulnerability, resilience, and adaptation. The fourth part will present case studies especially from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, to illustrate the relevance of human (including sociocultural–political) structures shaping adaptation to drought. In this line, water scarcity and drought will be studied (1) as a normal condition in some areas of the world (e.g., in the Saharan and Sahelian belts of Africa), where populations have established resilient socio-ecological systems; (2) in terms of climate change and progressive deterioration of the environment to which communities either have been able to adapt to (e.g., in southern Europe) or have been forced to experience crises, poverty, and migrations (e.g., in Sudan, Morocco, Kenya); and (3) in terms of conflicts and residential segregation that make water inaccessible to certain groups (e.g., in the West Bank). Finally, this chapter will conclude with some international conventions and regulations, like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the European guidelines for drought risk management, addressing social problems related to drought.

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