Water Works

By Cindy Ellis

In 2012, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and allies hosted a “Wellness and Water” conference in Morgantown, followed by similar day-long or weekend meetings in Buckhannon in 2013 and in Charleston in 2017.  There were many fruitful exchanges of ideas and emotions; attendees were gratified to make friends and feel supported. 

Some subtopics of the conferences have now come to be researched by two WVU professors of geography, both with career histories of exploring water issues in diverse locations.  Dr. Martina Angela Caretta and Dr. Jamie Shinn have conducted studies in Africa and Appalachia.  They want to add to what is known about securing water, protecting it, and about recovery from flood waters. And their work also focuses on the roles of women in these matters. 

Soon to be published is their accounting of their work in Greenbrier County on floodwater recovery.  They note the very helpful presence of faith- based groups as part of their scrutiny of the social effects from disastrous floods, and they hope this work complements that of others on environmental and economic impacts.

Additionally, in another study, Dr. Caretta made use of interviews of volunteers… many of whom she met through our conferences.  In Ecology and Society, her interview findings were explained under a title which reads, in part, “the opposed and unpaid work of women water stewards in West Virginia, USA”.

Hurdles faced by women working to improve water quality and access here are documented.  “Almost every interviewee mentioned that their gender has played against them in one instance or another.”  Struggles of women lobbyists are shown too.  “They lobby for increasing water quality standards, but more often fight against the consistent attempts to lower these standards allegedly geared at attracting extracting industries.”  

Martina Caretta closes this paper with a dedication to the memory of water warrior, April Pierson-Keating of Buckhannon.  But the work continues as Shinn and Caretta are now recruiting interviewees of those affected by the proliferation of gas pipelines here.  Anyone interested telling of their experiences may arrange an outdoor meeting at their home or nearby; here is contact information~martina.caretta@mail.wvu.edu