2022 journal article
Meeting the Water and Sanitation Challenges of Underbounded Communities in the U.S.
Environmental Science & Technology, 56(16), 11180–11188.
Water and sanitation (wastewater) infrastructure in the United States is aging and deteriorating, with massive underinvestment over the past several decades. For many years, lack of attention to water and sanitation infrastructure has combined with racial segregation and discrimination to produce uneven access to water and wastewater services resulting in growing threats to human and environmental health. In many metropolitan areas in the U.S., those that often suffer disproportionately are residents of low-income, minority communities located in urban disadvantaged unincorporated areas on the margins of major cities. Through the process of underbounding (the selective expansion of city boundaries to exclude certain neighborhoods often based on racial demographics or economics), residents of these communities are disallowed municipal citizenship and live without piped water, sewage lines, and adequate drainage or flood control. This Perspective identifies the range of water and sanitation challenges faced by residents in these communities. We argue that future investment in water and sanitation should prioritize these communities and that interventions need to be culturally context sensitive. As such, approaches to address these problems must not only be technical but also social and give attention to the unique geographic and political setting of local infrastructures.