Water Security and Nutrition: Current Knowledge and Research Opportunities

Elsevier, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 12, 1 November 2021
Miller J.D., Workman C.L., Panchang S.V., Sneegas G., Adams E.A., Young S.L. et al.

Water is an essential nutrient that has primarily been considered in terms of its physiological necessity. But reliable access to water in sufficient quantities and quality is also critical for many nutrition-related behaviors and activities, including growing and cooking diverse foods. Given growing challenges to water availability and safety, including climate change, pollution, and infrastructure degradation, a broader conceptualization of water and its diverse uses is needed to sustainably achieve global nutrition targets. Therefore, we review empirical and qualitative evidence describing the linkages between water security (the reliable availability, accessibility, and quality of water for all household uses) and nutrition. Primary linkages include water security for drinking, food production and preparation, infant and young child feeding, and limiting exposure to pathogens and environmental toxins. We then identify knowledge gaps within each linkage and propose a research agenda for studying water security and nutrition going forward, including the concurrent quantification of both food and water availability, accessibility, use, and stability. By making explicit the connections between water security and nutritional well-being, we aim to promote greater collaboration between the nutrition and water, sanitation, and hygiene sectors. Interdisciplinary policies and programs that holistically address the water-nutrition nexus, versus those that focus on water and nutrition independently, are likely to significantly advance our ability to ensure equitable access to healthy foods and safe water for all.