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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Greg Felter

Water Supply Challenges in Cities as a Result of Urbanization

Cities with high rates of urbanization experience added strains to infrastructure not witnessed in slowly expanding cities. The city of Kampala, Uganda, like many other major cities in developing countries is demonstrative of such strains. Many new immigrants settle in urban slums which already have minimal infrastructure provisions thus creating a situation which necessitates careful planning of future resources. Water supplies in these areas are no exception and the high population density of such areas has lent distribution points in these areas to communal facilities. Historically these facilities have been largely dependent on private vendors to both distribute and set prices for water, but this model proved ineffective due to the government’s inability to ensure fair prices. The Government of Uganda established a goal to provide 100% water access within Kampala by 2015 and in 2008 began implementing prepaid meters which distribute water at a universal price throughout slum areas as one of the methods to reach this goal. Despite this ambitious programme, universal water access in Kampala remains elusive, and predicting when access can be achieved requires in depth statistical and qualitative analysis. Achieving universal water access in such a large and rapidly growing city depends on a variety of factors. Social aspects such as educational outreach and slum organization must combine with sound financial plans and technical solutions to achieve such a broad goal. Carefully planning technical solutions depends largely on the ability to accurately predict growth rates and expansion of services, but these predictions must be coupled with accurate measurements of water consumption and water treatment plant output. By combining these aspects, a determination of the factors most likely to limit universal water access may be determined. Statistical analysis of a variety of different scenarios help to illustrate how different growth and water consumption rates can impact the prediction of both the timeframe in which universal water access is achievable as well as the frequency with which distribution points and treatment facilities must be constructed. Combining the results of both statistical analysis and qualitative data can facilitate a detailed plan which focuses new resources on the most dense and rapidly expanding areas of the city while ensuring adequate capacity and social outreach.