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Dr Julia Brown discusses her research into giving water access to whole populations

15 min listen

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Life Solved Podcast - The Politics of Water with Dr Julia Brown

It's a basic human need. But for some, clean water is not a given.

Sometimes it seems we've no shortage of rain here in the UK and it's easy to take for granted but, Dr. Julia Brown has been looking at why in some countries access to water can make all the difference to socioeconomic mobility. She explains how the rich can monopolise this vital resource where it is scarce. Her research has been looking at ways to work within different cultures to give water access to whole populations. Julia says she's trying to make the maintenance of water supply facilities a priority.

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Most of my work has been about rural water management. So when you're working in rural sub-saharan Africa, that is where the highest levels of poverty really are. So it's linking poverty to access to water.

Dr Julia Brown, Senior Lecturer

Episode Transcript

John Worsey: Thanks for downloading this podcast from the University of Portsmouth. I'm John Worsey, a writer and in Life Solved, we're asking the big questions about our world from politics to technology, our bodies and our environments. To do this, we're snatching interviews with researchers who are challenging existing ideas and seeking new ways of solving the world's problems.

John Worsey: In this episode, I'm hearing how a resource we take for granted in the UK is the deciding factor in individual power and mobility in other parts of the world.

Julia Brown: Very, very powerful people will always have access to water, so it's always the most vulnerable, the most marginal who have problems accessing water. It's a resource that allows me to look at politics, economics, the whole gambit.

John Worsey: I'll be finding out how one researcher is adding complexity to how goals for a sustainable world are made and maintained. And I'll be exploring how climate change presents real challenges to people and communities living without access to clean, safe water.

Julia Brown: There is definitely, I think, a lot of migration of people because climate is changing. So if everybody is constructing sources that are drawing on the aquifers, that will have a huge impact on their recharge rates.

John Worsey: And we'll be discussing the all-important question – once sanitation's upgraded and installed, whose responsibility is it to maintain the system for the benefit of all? Water is a lot more political than many of us might consider.

John Worsey: It seems there's plenty of water here in the U.K. and on a damp winter's day, it's hard to forget that. In the U.K. it arrives in our homes on demand, clean, clear and plentiful the moment we fancy filling that kettle for a cup of tea or soaking in a warm bath. But what we might take for granted is the difference that clean, safe water in our homes makes for our opportunities and social mobility. Imagine a society where only the weal

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