This paper outlines different theoretical approaches — namely outcome vulnerability, contextual vulnerability, and resilience — for addressing climate change effects in the context of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services. The authors analyse how these three approaches were employed in the literature on the WASH-climate change nexus, and discuss the implications for WASH research, policy and development work.
The analysis of 33 scholarly WASH-climate change nexus papers found that they implicitly drew most frequently on an outcome vulnerability approach, which tended to focus on the impact of projected climate change hazards on physical aspects of WASH service delivery. Each individual approach has limitations due to their disciplinary and epistemological foundations, and the WASH sector must be mindful of who stands to benefit most and what values will be upheld when these approaches are used.
The authors argue that in most cases, it will be beneficial to draw on all approaches and describe challenges and opportunities for integrating different perspectives on preparing for climate change within the WASH sector.