Water Journal : Water Journal May 2015
water MAY 2015 42 Feature article study found only 10 per cent of non-revenue water is from illegal connections, with the rest attributed to leakages (80 per cent) and technical losses such as meter inaccuracy (10 per cent).14 When services are available, many low-income settlers struggle to pay their water bills. In Port Vila, the cost for 7,500 litres of water (50 litres per person per day for a family of five for a month) is 23 per cent of an average monthly settlement household income.15,16 Even if settlers have the ability to pay tariffs, connection fees may be cost-prohibitive. Utilities also find it difficult to collect and enforce bill payment from settlement customers using standard customer engagement models. For example, many communities who share standpipes cannot organise to collect payments from households. Cultural norms can also hinder bill payment. In Honiara, migrants from rural areas are accustomed to receiving water supplies without payment; these settlers expect water to be provided by their traditional ethnic group leaders for free. For sanitation, the situation is more challenging. Across all the study countries, utilities’ mandates are limited to sewerage services (as opposed to sanitation services, which include non-piped options). Networks are grossly inadequate, and sewered coverage ranges from 0 to 50 per cent. Out of the four study countries, only a few settlements in Suva were connected to sewers; these cases are isolated exceptions. No city or utility has comprehensive programs to manage non-sewered waste flows. Some stakeholders are taking the first steps to managing these flows. For instance, Honiara City Council and the Water Authority of Fiji (WAF) have two septic tank trucks and sludge disposal points; however, these programs primarily service middle- or upper-income households or commercial customers. Settlement households can potentially improve their toilet with locally available and affordable options. However, no private sector providers target this market segment with goods or professional services. The settlements do not have access to waste management services, and households cannot organise waste management resources independently because waste management is a public good and “common pool resource” that requires coordinated investment and planning to yield benefits. Utilities have no incentive to engage in settlement sanitation because they do not directly internalise the health and environmental benefits of sanitation services; traditional sewers are extremely expensive to build and operate; appropriate technologies for marginal lands are unclear; and utilities have little to no prospect of collecting meaningful levels of revenue from connected customers. Where utilities and Governments are willing to serve settlements, the enabling environment (such as national targets, policy environments and financial/organisational capacity) to foster comprehensive, effective programming is limited or missing. Settlement residents do not have the political voice to demand improved services. With some exceptions, there are few national stakeholders, NGOs, or civic organisations that actively advocate for improved WASH services in the settlements. Utility investments are influenced by internal, Government and donor technical preferences, which tend to favour investments in large-piped water infrastructure systems to formal areas. Decision-makers do not consistently make (or highlight) the connection between WASH services in the settlements and urban environmental/public health. current efforts to iMprove service delivery to settleMents There are examples of successful efforts to improve water service delivery to settlements. For instance: • WAF sidesteps land tenure requirements by placing customer meters at the edge of a settlement rather than at households. The household then installs distribution piping from the meter (shown in Figure 4). • Eda Ranu, the utility in Port Moresby, PNG, provides services through community standpipes with bulk tariff rates to avoid penalising those who share meters under increasing block tariff schedules. • Solomon Water partners with World Vision, a local NGO, to improve understanding of and programming for settlement customers’ willingness and ability to pay for services. • In Port Vila, one vatu from every cubic metre of water sold goes into the “Water Special Fund” held by UNELCO, which inter alia “contributes to the construction of new water connections for the benefit of low-income earners.” The fund has yet to be used to help low-income households. These water service efforts provide examples worth studying further and replicating or scaling where appropriate. Unfortunately, no country demonstrated meaningful efforts to deliver sanitation services in settlements or to support comprehensive city-wide faecal sludge management. Where do We go froM here? No single project or program is a “silver bullet.” Solutions need to respond to the particular circumstances found in each settlement, and be implemented with relatively limited financial and technical resources. However, there are recommendations that apply to the region. Figure 3. Abandoned toilet basin over a full pit. 14 Solomon Water. 2014. Interview with Solomon Water, Alyse Schrecongost, Katherine Wong, and Ingvar Anda. In person. Honiara, Solomon Islands. 15 The water tariff is based on UNELCO website data from November 2014. The average monthly settlement household income in Port Vila is VT1030 [US$103]. 16 This is the average monthly household income for the lowest decile in urban Vanuatu. (See: Table 2-3 http://www.vnso.gov.vu/index.php/component/advlisting /?view=download&fileId=2006).
Water and CSG
Water Journal June 2015