Victoria Beard: Challenges to Reliable and Affordable Water in Cities in the Global South

a hand pump for water behind a fence empties into a bucket

Victoria Beard is an associate professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. She recently returned from a two-year leave of absence after acting as director of research for the Ross Center for Sustainable Cities at the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington DC. One of Beard's primary responsibilities at WRI was the intellectual framing of the World Resources Report, Towards a More Equal City. Throughout her career, Beard's research has focused on the relationship between community-level collective action and poverty alleviation. This work has ranged from how citizens organize to meet their basic human needs to how they plan for broader social and political transformation.


This presentation will outline short and medium-term steps for cities that seek to move towards universal and equitable access to drinking water for the under-served, and the economic and environmental implications these steps have for the city. The presentation describes the scale of the deficiencies in water provision for urban populations in struggling and emerging cities and considers current realities for water in informal settlements and the challenges of ensuring water supplies that are uncontaminated, regular, accessible, and affordable. The inadequacies in the data on water provision is acknowledged and needed changes are discussed. Beard focuses on short-term solutions as well as medium-term solutions to meeting water needs, and the importance of sequencing these solutions to move cities towards providing universal access. For each of these solutions, three factors are considered: governance, finance, and planning.

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