It costs a lot of money to provide low quality water and sanitation services – and more expensive technology alone will not solve the problem, Catarina Fonseca, Director of the WASHCost project, has told an audience of economists, WASH specialists and researchers. Research in four countries has found that switching from boreholes with handpumps to small piped services can triple the costs but often leaves people with service levels somewhere between sub-standard and basic.
The WASHCost project is working with partners in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mozambique and in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh to collect and analyse cost data for water and sanitation services in rural and peri-urban areas. The overall aim is to build better cost data into country systems to increase the quality of services, especially targeting issues of poverty, equity and cost-effectiveness.
WASHCost is completing the third year of the five year project which is run by IRC in the Netherlands and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. An intensive year of data collection is being analysed but preliminary results were revealed for the first time at the IRC Symposium in The Hague on 16-18 November 2010.
Some of the findings include:
- in Ghana it would be more cost effective to replace every US$ 500 handpump every five to ten years, than to wait for them to fail and put at risk a US$ 10,000 borehole.
- for boreholes and handpumps annualised costs are US$ 2 per capita in Mozambique and US$ 4 in Ghana, raising to US$ 12-22 for small town systems. In Andhra Pradesh where new guidelines for water have resulted in major new investments, the annualised costs are as high as US$ 132 per capita
- in Ghana, the annual water costs per capita rise threefold when moving from point sources to piped systems
- in Mozambique upgrading water point services to piped systems will cost up to 10 times more per person per year when all costs are taken into account
- in Andhra Pradesh, households spend from US$ 150 to US$ 227 on their toilets in addition to the Government subsidy – which is supposed to cover 90% of the costs
- WASHCost researched ten villages in Andhra Pradesh that had won the NGP award for becoming ‘open defecation free’ and found open defecation again being practised in nine of them. This “slippage” relates to the failure of sustainability of large hygiene interventions
- in Mozambique, all sanitation construction costs are borne by households. Going from traditional pit latrine to a higher level of service implies at least 50% more capital costs per person per year.
- pit latrines are widely used in Burkina Faso and in Mozambique and last a long time without much maintenance. However, they are not considered as safe in government norms
- in Ghana, communities spend US$ 26 per capita per year on soap, more than the per capita cost of a small town water system. In Mozambique, households are spending up to 5% of their cash-income on soap. This average of US$ 12 per capita per year is more than the per capita expenditure on hygiene promotion interventions
Read the full article by Peter McIntrye (IRC, 27 Nov 2010)