Accepted 18th April, 2014
Water is essential for the well-being of mankind and for sustainable development. It is used in productive and consumptive activities and contributes to rural and urban livelihoods. Lack of access to drinking water is an indicator of poverty. Therefore, this research focused on assessing water stress and scarcity, linking physical estimates of water availability with socioeconomic variables that reflect poverty, i.e. a Water Poverty Index. The study was conducted in Mitundu and Chitsime Extension Planning Areas. Secondary data was obtained from the Ministry of Water and Irrigation Development, Mitundu and Chitsime Health Communities, and Lilongwe District Assembly. In addition, primary data was collected from focus group discussions conducted in each community. Using Water Poverty Index, water poverty levels were estimated. The study has shown that Mitundu EPA has a lower poverty level compared to Chitsime EPA. However, based on a threshold of 50 for water poverty level, it was shown that both communities need improvements in component areas that were less than 50 in order to lower water poverty. The study recommends that WPI should be updated at reasonable intervals and carried out in other areas to allow decision-makers to identify where attention is needed most and monitor progress at the community level.
Keywords: water, poverty, water poverty, index, environment.