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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Ryan DuChanois

Reliability and Equity of Water Service in Rural Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Mozambique

Equitable access to reliable water supply is key to improvement of health and
economic outcomes in rural areas of low- and middle-income countries. Research has
shown even brief interruptions to primary supply eliminates annual health benefits
from using safe drinking water if the secondary source is higher risk. Common
indicators for monitoring water source sustainability, however, do not track service
intermittencies, nor are there quantitative studies that assess the causes of
discontinuity. This paper identifies and quantifies risks to water service reliability,
defined as the percentage of the year water is available from a source, and provides
potential solutions to make water service more reliable and equitable.

Using the literature, this research identifies technical, financial, institutional,
social, and environmental risks to waterpoints, many of which have been concerns
addressed through community-based management and the demand-responsive
approach to water service provision. Then, using fractional logistic regression on
existing nationally-representative data sets, this work quantifies associations between
risk factors and water service reliability in the context of rural Bangladesh, Pakistan,
Ethiopia, and Mozambique. In at least three countries, (1) water source type was a
determinant of service reliability; (2) regular tariff payments were linked with reduced
reliability; and (3) the number of water sources households used was negatively
associated with reliability. Regressions controlled for variables such as water source
age, water scarcity, and household wealth quintile. To further explore wealth quintile
as a determinant of reliable service, inequity of service reliability was compared to
inequity of drinking water access. Results suggest while drinking water coverage is
inequitably distributed, average households in the lowest and highest wealth quintiles
have similar service reliability from improved water sources.

Models show two pronounced deficiencies in community-managed water
supplies are cost recovery and water source maintenance. Explanations are presented
for why these issues exist in rural communities, and then potential solutions are
discussed. These findings offer a knowledge-base to inform development practitioners,
governments, non-governmental agencies, and donor organisations on how to
improve water service reliability in rural communities.