In their contribution to the “Chancing the Storm” series, Amber Wutich and Wendy Jepson address how water insecurity promulgates various forms of uncertainty that impact households in both the Global North and South. Drawing on their multinational research, they show how insecurity is experienced differently, depending on geographical, political, and economic conditions—where water comes from, whether households or municipalities can invest in water infrastructure, or whether residents can afford water. Yet, across different contexts, uncertainty is both a driver and consequence of water insecurity. Wutich and Jepson demonstrate how social science contributes to understanding how these dynamics can open up new channels for community-centered water management.
Amber Wutich is a President’s Professor of Anthropology and director of the Center for Global Health at Arizona State University. Her two decades of community-based fieldwork are concerned with how inequitable and unjust resource institutions impact people’s well-being, especially under conditions of poverty. An expert on water insecurity and mental health, she directs the Global Ethnohydrology Study, a cross-cultural study of the human dimensions of water. Wutich maintains longstanding ties in her field sites in Paraguay and Bolivia, and manages a strategic alliance between ASU and la Universidad Católica–Itapúa (Paraguay). As a nationally leading social science methodologist with over 100 peer-reviewed publications, Wutich edits Field Methods, coauthored Analyzing Qualitative Data: Systematic Approaches (with H. Russell Bernard and Gery W. Ryan; Sage Publishing, 2016), and teaches ethnographic field methods and text analysis in national programs. Her teaching has been recognized with awards such as Carnegie CASE Arizona Professor of the Year, ASU Faculty Mentor Award–Outstanding Doctoral Chair, and ASU Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Classroom Performance. Wutich has raised over $34 million in research funds, as part of collaborative research teams, from the National Science Foundation, US Department of Agriculture, and other funding sources.