Water Journal : Water Journal May 2015
MAY 2015 water 41 Feature article poor households. 10 There are often not enough shared taps in a community, and water reliability (pressure and flow) is intermittent. This leads to crowding and long waits, causing residents to spend significant time collecting water each day. Due to this high cost and inconvenience, households typically supplement their collection of piped water with rainwater, water from shallow wells, or surface water. This water tends to be used for bathing, dishwashing and laundry. In some cases, households ration water at the expense of basic hygiene behaviours like regular hand- washing.11 Both illegal connections and informal water sources increase the risk of illness from water contamination, as dirt and polluted water at the collection point can enter containers (Figure 1). Informal collection and storage containers are irregularly cleaned and harbour water-borne contamination and bacteria (Figure 2). Residents do not commonly practice boiling or other forms of water treatment. Women and girls are typically responsible for collecting water for the entire household. They endure long waits and carry heavy loads of water (between 20 and 30 kilograms) over multiple trips to collect and bring water home, a physical burden that can lead to degenerative health effects.12 They are also exposed to the risk of sexual and physical violence when they collect water away from their homes, particularly at night. sanitation access Across the region, sanitation services in settlements are limited or missing entirely. No settlements in the study have access to organised faecal waste management services, and coping mechanisms are consistently inadequate. In Suva, residents have greater financial means to improve and maintain latrine superstructures, and most have access to piped water for pour flush toilets and hand-washing. In Port Vila, communities were more apt to organise themselves around shared toilet options. However, in Port Moresby and Honiara, most households rely on pit toilets or openly defecate in the bushes or creeks. When available, toilets tend to be shared by multiple families and are poorly maintained. Many people (particularly children, elderly and disabled residents) resort to open defecation because they cannot access or are afraid of/disgusted by poor toilet conditions. Open defecation, particularly at night, exposes women and children to risk of violence or abuse. Across all the study countries, waste from these toilets is consistently handled unsafely, often with straight pipes to nearby streams or to shallow, unsealed underground containment structures with inadequate storage or drainage. Toilets are virtually never emptied; households typically abandon filled toilets and dig another toilet nearby (as shown in Figure 3). In communities in low-lying areas, this waste may regularly flood into communities. In settlements with high water tables, toilet facilities may be elevated and hang over water bodies, which can be frightening or unsafe for children, the elderly or disabled users. Why do inforMal settleMents have inadequate Wash services? Utilities often do not have a clear mandate or obligation to serve informal settlements. In some cities, they are expressly restricted from connecting customers without formal land tenure. When utilities have the legal authority to provide services, they often lack the financial and political motivation to extend services to informal settlements. Many utilities already struggle to provide acceptable water services to existing customer bases and are unable to cope with the pace of urban growth in formalised communities. It is often not financially feasible for utilities to extend water mains or distribution lines to new communities, particularly peri-urban settlements, under current institutional arrangements. Extending services to settlements can be technically challenging (and, therefore, more expensive and time consuming). Utilities cannot always rely on conventional infrastructure options to serve settlements that are located on marginal lands, haphazardly organised, and lack complementary infrastructure. Although some settlements are close to existing infrastructure and are technically feasible to serve, they are (or are perceived to be) commercially more difficult to serve relative to formal urban communities. Some utilities are reluctant to serve settlers because of concerns that settlers will vandalise distribution lines for illegal connections. Although illegal water connections do occur in the settlements, these connections are not as prevalent as many believe. In Honiara, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) helped Solomon Water assess the source of non-revenue water, which comprised 60 per cent of the utility’s water. Prior to JICA’s study, this non-revenue water was attributed to theft. 13 The 10 In Port Moresby, settlers who buy water per-container pay a higher rate (between K3.79 to K100 [US$1.53 to US$40.39] per 1,000 litres) than they would for a legal connection (K1 [US$0.38]) per 1,000 litres. 11 Greenwell, James, Judith McCool, Jacob Koolc, and Mosese Salusalud. “Typhoid fever: hurdles to adequate hand washing for disease prevention among the population of a peri-urban informal settlement in Fiji.” Western Pacific Surveillance and Response Journal: WPSAR 4, No. 1 (2013): 41–45. 12 Social Research Findings and Recommendations. PNG: Sanitation, Water Supply, and Hygiene in Urban Informal Settlements. World Bank – Water and Sanitation Program. 2015 13 Solomon Water. 2014. Interview with Solomon Water, Alyse Schrecongost, Katherine Wong, and Ingvar Anda. In person. Honiara, Solomon Islands. Figure 1. Containers and informal filling sites contaminate utility water. Source: Social Research Findings and Recommendations. PNG: Sanitation, Water Supply and Hygiene in Urban Informal Settlements. World Bank-Water and Sanitation Program, 2015. Figure 2. Makeshift water storage container from Blacksands Settlement in Vanuatu.
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Water Journal June 2015