Children's perceived water futures in the United States southwest

Holly Vins, Amber Wutich, Alexandra Slade, Melissa Beresford, Alissa Ruth, Christopher Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This study examines children's perceptions of water via 3,120 pieces of artwork collected from 1,560 schoolchildren (age 9-11) in Arizona, United States, with a specific focus on how these are gendered. Each child produced two pieces of art, one depicting water in their community today and one 100 years in the future. Using content analysis, the study finds that (1) students' depictions of the future contain statistically significantly more pollution and scarcity and less vegetation than those of the present; (2) girls are statistically significantly more likely than boys to draw vegetation in the present and future, domestic water uses in the future, and everyday technologies in the future; and (3) boys are statistically significantly more likely than girls to draw natural sources of water in the present and technological innovations in the future. The study also explores thematic differences in children's depictions of natural environments, domestic water use, water technologies, and dystopic water futures. Our results indicate that gendered perceptions of water are evident by middle childhood in some arenas (domestic water use, technological innovation) but not in others (environmental concerns, such as pollution).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-246
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Organization
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


  • children
  • drawings
  • environment
  • gender
  • sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences


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