American Chemical Society
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Cultured Construction: Global Evidence of the Impact of National Values on Piped-to-Premises Water Infrastructure Development

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journal contribution
posted on 2016-06-07, 00:00 authored by Jessica A. Kaminsky
In 2016, the global community undertook the Sustainable Development Goals. One of these goals seeks to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all people by the year 2030. In support of this undertaking, this paper seeks to discover the cultural work done by piped water infrastructure across 33 nations with developed and developing economies that have experienced change in the percentage of population served by piped-to-premises water infrastructure at the national level of analysis. To do so, I regressed the 1990–2012 change in piped-to-premises water infrastructure coverage against Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, controlling for per capita GDP, the 1990 baseline level of coverage, percent urban population, overall 1990–2012 change in improved sanitation (all technologies), and per capita freshwater resources. Separate analyses were carried out for the urban, rural, and aggregate national contexts. Hofstede’s dimensions provide a measure of cross-cultural difference; high or low scores are not in any way intended to represent better or worse but rather serve as a quantitative way to compare aggregate preferences for ways of being and doing. High scores in the cultural dimensions of Power Distance, Individualism–Collectivism, and Uncertainty Avoidance explain increased access to piped-to-premises water infrastructure in the rural context. Higher Power Distance and Uncertainty Avoidance scores are also statistically significant for increased coverage in the urban and national aggregate contexts. These results indicate that, as presently conceived, piped-to-premises water infrastructure fits best with spatial contexts that prefer hierarchy and centralized control. Furthermore, water infrastructure is understood to reduce uncertainty regarding the provision of individually valued benefits. The results of this analysis identify global trends that enable engineers and policy makers to design and manage more culturally appropriate and socially sustainable water infrastructure by better fitting technologies to user preferences.