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Measuring Full Cost of Access to Water: A Water Diary Study in Informal Settlements of Pune, India

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Heinrich Zozmann, Christian Klassert, Bernd Klauer, Erik Gawel

2020 American Geophysical Union December meeting, San Francisco, CA

Target 6.1 of the Agenda 2030 and practical efforts to increase access to water frequently focus on one primary, improved drinking water source. In many areas of the Global South, however, the problem of access is more complex: Households use and combine various water services and forms of self-supply such as intermittent piped services, public standpipes, wells, water kiosks, tanker trucks etc. These forms of supply are differentiated by their service levels, i.e. distinct temporal availability, spatial accessibility, water quality and monetary price. Depending on the service level, access may be associated with significant non-pecuniary “hurdles to access”, such as the time spent in collecting and storing water quantities. These access hurdles are hard to measure as they depend on subjective circumstances and may fluctuate due to unreliable supply.

Based on household production theory, we develop a framework that translates (i) pecuniary and non-pecuniary hurdles into a quantifiable full cost of access to water and (ii) incorporates different quality levels required for the various household uses of water. We apply this framework to 50 households in four informal settlements of Pune, India. The data informing the research was retrieved in two one-week water diary studies in January and June of 2020. Non-pecuniary costs of access are approximated through opportunity cost of time spent in household production and are valued through in- and output methods.

Our results suggest that:

  • Depending on the available service level, households incur significant non-pecuniary cost of access: water collection time can amount to several hours per day, even with an individual piped connection;
  • Daily and seasonal fluctuations in supply increase time cost significantly;
  • Water from different sources may be combined by households resulting from demands for different service levels.

These findings substantiate that the problem of access to water is gradual and needs further conceptual and empirical exploration. Our framework can support this by empirically quantifying full cost of access to water, while a crucial methodological choice is the applied valuation of time. Normative discussions on which costs of access are considered reasonable or acceptable are required and may lead to new insights for water services supply.