By: Tess Reding Hoffart

Hello everyone! My name is Tess and I am a student at Western Washington University, where I am double majoring with a degree in sociology and an interdisciplinary concentration in social and environmental perspectives in public health. Despite nearly 15 months of practice, working remotely still hasn’t come to feel entirely normal. I’ve spent the last several weeks working on my research project while sitting on the couch, laying in the garden, wandering around parks, and huddled in the corner of public libraries by the AC (a beloved resource on hot days). It’s been a (sometimes challenging) adventure to sort out a good routine, but the wonderful people and interesting work with REU ANEW have made it a fun one.

This summer, I am working with Dr. Kiley Daley to write a literature review to explore experiences of household water insecurity across rural and urban landscapes, specifically looking at communities in the US and Canada. Much of the research and writing surrounding water insecurity up to this point has focused on low and middle income countries, and the issue of water security is often overlooked in high income countries such as the US and Canada. However, many people still experience water insecurity in these places, and by examining this issue through a literature review, we hope to identify patterns that are arising in existing research and illuminate gaps and future paths for exploration.

Water insecurity can be influenced by many different factors, such as access, affordability, quality, and reliability. Ultimately, water insecurity is a social construct, shaped by human interactions and histories. Marginalized groups, including people of color, indigenous communities, and the poor, are much more likely to face water insecurity, reflecting the ways water insecurity is produced by historical and ongoing disparities in wealth and power. In order to address water insecurity, it is necessary to confront the structures and inequalities that enforce it.

My work this summer has continued to cement the value and necessity of interdisciplinary perspectives in my mind. Concerns surrounding water insecurity range from medical and public health disciplines to environmental justice and sociology, and each field offers its own distinct perspective on the topic. Over the last several weeks, I’ve gained a much stronger sense of what it means to do research and the responsibilities that come with that role. The perspective I bring to every search I complete and article I read molds the ideas I include and interpret in my writing, moving the discussion forward in just one direction out of endless possibilities. It has been fascinating to hear so many different perspectives and approaches to One Health and research from everyone participating in and facilitating the REU ANEW program, and I am so excited to continue learning with everyone this summer.