Last week, I looked at some of the issues surrounding access to water… This week, I am seeking to highlight the inconvenience that those without a water connection go through on a daily basis in an attempt to obtain enough water for their families.
I find it’s common to hear about rural areas where children walk a long way to get water and may miss school as a result, but much less common to hear similar stories from urban informal settlements.
However, surveys in Kibera have indicated an average daily collection time of around 45 minutes each day for the urban poor – and the average rises to 55 minutes when considering those who use kiosks/vendors. This is a very significant amount of time for someone who is trying to run a small-scale business or bring up a family. In contrast, those with private connections report using less than 10% of that time (5 minutes). A more recent report paints a yet bleaker picture, stating that Kibera residents spend on average more than 2 hours a day waiting for water, which may be available for as little as 4-5 hours.
These figures are for average days. However, water is often scarce in Kibera; not all days are good. When there is a shortage, a person may have to walk a long way searching for a vendor who is open for business. Or they may know exactly where they can go (someone with a borehole, or connections to numerous pipes), but face enormous queues. This paper, talking of personal experiences suggests that the time taken on a day of shortages could be 5 hours or more – half of the working day gone. These are missed opportunities for income and can hit a family hard.
As highlighted last week, we aim to bring the water utility on board, encouraging to expand into such low-income areas as Kibera, and improve their service, including by NRW reduction, which makes rationing less necessary.
Again, in the shorter term, we have our own programme’s kiosks, which seek to make access more convenient – being open for at least around 10 hours each day, keeping queues relatively short (on any given trip, a person is unlikely to wait more than 5 minutes), and being able to supply in times of relative scarcity, due to sizeable storage tanks.
What I would like to hear more about is water access in strategic locations; it tends to be assumed that the distance someone travels to get water in an urban location is low, which it generally is. But on that day when a person is searching for water, it can be a serious issue, if they do not know of a place nearby, which will definitely be open and will not have hiked prices. This was something that struck me about the model NWSC in Kampala showed us when we visited for the WSUP Master Class (see here for more).