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Which WISE Scale should I use?

The Household Water Insecurity Experiences (HWISE) Scale is a good indicator of the broader household environment, e.g. studies of child wellbeing and household nutrition. If you are interested in how water insecurity varies by individual socio-demographic characteristics—such as gender, age, reproductive status—the Individual Water Insecurity Experiences (IWISE) Scale generates appropriately disaggregated data. The Brief Water Insecurity Experiences (HWISE-4) Scale should be used only when survey “space” is very tight.

Which recall period should I use?

The HWISE and HWISE-4 scales were validated with a recall period of four weeks. The IWISE Scale was validated for a recall period of 12 months. A shorter recall gives more accurate data, which is important if you are interested in particular outcomes within a population. A recall period of 12 months is useful for making comparisons across populations because it captures annual variation in precipitation and temperature.

Can I add questions about water insecurity experiences?

Yes! Some of the candidate items that were not included in the final scale might be useful for researchers working with particular populations. For example, items on water for agriculture and livestock are useful in work with smallholder farmers, and items related to caring for children may be useful in studies about child wellbeing.

In what order should the items be asked?

We encourage implementers to work with key informants in order to identify the severity and sensitivity of items. Previous research demonstrates that organizing items in order of increasing severity or sensitivity produces more reliable responses. As such, items may be asked in different orders across sites of implementation.

Who should answer these questions?

Any adult who considers themselves knowledgeable about water acquisition and use among all members of their household can answer. Remember, items address the situation of all household members, not just the individual who is responding. These items have not yet been validated with children.

What is a household?

The definition of a household is highly context specific. Survey implementers should develop a standard definition that is appropriate for the local area in which the scale is being used, e.g., “a household includes all people who sleep under the same roof and share food from the same pot.” This definition should be stated at the start of each interview, and respondents should affirm that they understand this definition.

Can any items be dropped?

No. The module should be asked in its entirety. Our previous work demonstrates that the complete set of questions more comprehensively and robustly measures the multiple dimensions of experiences with water insecurity than any single question on its own. Dropping questions means scores will not be comparable across settings and studies.

Why was a 4-week recall period selected?

Problems with water (e.g., water shut-offs) are not necessarily experienced daily. Therefore, we used a 4-week recall period to better capture a with water insecurity. This is a commonly used recall period for many indicators of wellbeing. We have demonstrated that 4-week recall is reliable (see paper). We have also established the reliability of a one year recall (forthcoming).

What if a participant responds with “don’t know” to a scale item?

“Don’t know” is coded as missing. Given that HWISE Scale scores can only be generated if households answer all 12 questions, implementers should use suggested probes (see Section 5.0 in manual) to ensure that the respondent does know how frequently an experience occurs in their household. If someone who is more knowledgeable about the household’s water situation is available and consents to participate, their responses should be recorded instead.

What if a participant responds with “not applicable” to a scale item?

“Not applicable” is coded as missing. However, given that HWISE Scale items were developed to be universally applicable across diverse ecological and cultural settings, respondents should be able to answer all questions (see paper). Implementers should use suggested probes (see Section 5.0 in manual) to ensure that participants understood the experience described before recording a response as “not applicable.” If respondents frequently report "not applicable", feel free to be in touch.