Accepted paper:

Water vulnerability: the water-energy nexus and disaster vulnerability in the United States Virgin Islands


Cori Bender (University of South Florida)

Paper short abstract:

Hurricanes in the Caribbean region are a force capable of altering lives in profound ways that influence how water is understood, in times of both scarcity and extreme inundation.

Paper long abstract:

Hurricanes in the Caribbean region have long been a force capable of altering lives and livelihoods in profound ways. These massive storms give water the potential to be intensely destructive for people and the environments we interact with. From the perspective of water disaster vulnerability and political ecology, this paper explores historical and ongoing engagement of U.S. Virgin Islanders with how their water-energy nexus has been transformed in the past and today by these disaster events. The focus is on how the community copes with times of water scarcity and times of extreme water disaster events through public infrastructures and mitigation strategies. Water scarcity provides a mechanism for revealing manifestations of local political ecologies. Scarcity does not simply refer to the amount of available resource, but who has access to them and in what way (Johnston 2012:xiii), suggesting that scarcity is not distributed evenly and is impacted by uncertain water flows (Whiteford and Vindrola Padros 2011). This work is based on ethnographic research conducted prior to the recent hurricane season that produced two category five hurricanes weeks apart, but is also informed by the current post-disaster environment that the community of the U.S. Virgin Islands must engage with. Within the ongoing community disaster recovery plans is the concept of Building Back Better (BBB). The following paper investigates the Virgin Islands community's imaginings of water in relation to disaster vulnerability and how the BBB framework influences local perspectives and practices in relation to the water-energy nexus.

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Water futures: making a living in times of environmental uncertainty