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Piped Connections -- Make-Or Break Factor In Low-Income Households' Access To Urban Water Services

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Marianne Kjelln (Stockholm, Sweden)

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 4: Infrastructure development,

* Introduction The majority of urban dwellers in the world have access to improved water sources, with four out of five households having piped water supplied to their homes. However, in Southern and South-eastern Asia only just over half of the households are estimated to have piped water, and in Sub-Saharan Africa only one third of the households have pipe-water connections. (WHO and UNICEF, 2014, p. 73). The inequalities are present both in the methods people have for accessing water and in how much is paid: Partly due to the lack of access to piped water, poor people in slum areas often buy water from alternative providers who distribute by tanker, cart or bucket; at prices that are 5-10 times higher than what the wealthy in the same city pay (UNDP, 2006, p. 10). Most of the debate regarding the affordability of water relates to how much is paid for water on a daily basis. And whereas states have an obligation to ensure that services remain affordable for the poor (de Albuquerque, 2014, p. 35), this type of affordability of service is only relevant after access to the service has been achieved. A pipe-water connection is a requirement to enjoy running water in the house or at the premises, and high connection fees has been identified as one of the main barriers that exclude the urban poor from accessing water services (Mason, 2009, p. 6). The present study will review procedures and costs for obtaining connections, and explore to what extent these are conducive towards expanding service coverage, particularly in relation to low-income households. It is suggested that transparent information and fair procedures along with creative ways to minimise upfront connection costs will enhance the access by low-income households to piped water services. However, the study will not set out to test this hypothesis, but rather create a global picture of actual connection costs and procedures and the transparency around its communication and application. The comparison of geographically spread cases will provide a solid base for policy conclusions regarding how to manage connections in an efficient and equitable way. Ultimately, the study aims to contribute to reducing inequalities in urban water services provision. * Methods This paper compares the costs and procedures for obtaining household water connections in a range of urban settlements. The plan is to cover at least ten cities or towns where service coverage remains an issue, in at least five different countries. The main issues to be studied are: - connection charges and associated costs for piping and installations - payment conditions, including ways to amortise costs of connection over time - connection subsidies, e.g. first time connection funds - availability and clarity of information to the public on connection costs and procedures - practices and procedures that facilitate or hinder easy access to connections, particularly for low-income urban populations Data will initially be gathered from the web-sites of urban water utilities or main service provider in each settlement. This internet survey will collect information about connection fees, costs and procedures for new connections on the one hand. On the other, it will also assess the public availability of information about these procedures and costs. In the second stage, complementary and/or contrasting information regarding connection fees, costs and procedures will be searched for by contacting a subset of utilities, regulators and consumer associations as available. Further information search relating to official and unofficial costs and practices in relation to first-time and re-connection of water users will be carried out through indirect sources, e.g. letters to newspapers or local press. (Local newspapers have been shown to be a rich source of information about unofficial practices relating to service delivery, see e.g. Server, 1996) * Discussion The expected results will need to be thoroughly inserted into its appropriate physical, economic and socio-cultural context. Indeed, connections require a physical basis in that pipe networks are there and the water to fill them. Pro-poor policies like connection subsidies will not be effective in itself as it may have little meaning where the piped water network is very far away from low-income areas (Kjellén, 2006, p. 199, Komives et al., 2005, p. 138, Mason, 2009, p. 12). The importance of network expansion and the direction of investments in a non-discriminatory manner are clearly of utter importance for achieving universal coverage of services. Yet, in the final stages of actually connecting households to the services, the details of the connection policies can make a significant difference. For instance, the way that connection fees are charged -- as lump-sums or by instalments, made a significant difference in the intention of low-income households to connect in a study in Jakarta: The stated willingness to connect increased significantly where connections were to be paid for in monthly instalments rather than up-front (McGranahan et al., 1997, p. 95). Further, the provision of water connections is an area with extensive risk for corruption and requests for bribes (Transparency International, 2008, Cap-Net et al., 2009). It is the actual -- official as well as unofficial -- connection costs and potential barriers in the procedures for connecting as experienced by those not connected that matter. Indeed, reducing corruption, especially in relation to connection charges, was an important part of the exceptional expansion of water services in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Kjellén, 2012). * Conclusion Recognizing the importance of the physical environment and overarching governance framework and regulatory environment, the present paper emphasises the importance of water connections in the extension of urban water services and the achievement of universal access. The paper reviews how connections are managed in a range of utilities across the globe, with policy conclusions regarding how these can make water services more accessible for the urban poor. Whereas the fundaments of infrastructure extension, water availability and their quality cannot be overlooked, the issue of connections remains as one of the main barrier for poor people to access water services. 1. CAP-NET, WATER-NET, WGF & WIN 2009. Training Manual on Water Integrity. Stockholm: Stockholm International Water Institute. 2. DE ALBUQUERQUE, C. 2014. Realising the human rights to water and sanitation: A Handbook by the UN Special Rapporteur. 3. KJELLÃN, M. 2006. From Public Pipes to Private Hands: Water Access and Distribution in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. PhD PhD Thesis, Stockholm University. 4. KJELLÃN, M. 2012. Vattenförsörjning i Phnom Penh - en överraskande helomvÀndning! Geografiska Notiser, 70, 28-41. 5. KOMIVES, K., FOSTER, V., HALPERN, J. & WODON, Q. 2005. Water, Electricity, and the Poor: Who Benefits from Utility Subsidies. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank. 6. MASON, N. 2009. Access for the poor and excluded. Tariffs and subsidies for urban water supply. London: WaterAid. 7. MCGRANAHAN, G., LEITMANN, J. & SURJADI, C. 1997. Understanding Environmental Problems in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods: Broad Spectrum Surveys, Participatory Appraisal and Contingent Valuation. Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute. 8. SERVER, O. B. 1996. Corruption: A major problem for urban management: Some evidence from Indonesia. Habitat International, 20, 23-41. 9. TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL 2008. Global Corruption Report 2008: Corruption in the Water Sector. Cambridge: Transparency International, Water Integrity Network, Cambridge University Press. 10. UNDP 2006. Human Development Report 2006. Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis. New York: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 11. WHO & UNICEF 2014. Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation, 2014 update. New York and Geneva: WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation.

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