Economic, Ecological and Social Costs of Private Water Supply
Public water supply has failed in many urban areas due to highly consumptive life styles, increasing urbanization, lack of planning, limited freshwater availability, poor infrastructure, inadequate maintenance / monitoring by service providers,
excessive use by higher income groups / localities. Hence, there is an opportunity to market water at a more realistic price to needy consumers. Private includes all private investment in water, like private tankers, own tube wells in individual households or colonies. The location of this project is preferably confirmed to urban areas, in one colony or two adjacent colonies, but not necessarily in big towns.
The objectives are:
- To identify and inventories the source of water supply for both private and public sector water supplies.
- To estimate the amount of water supplied by public water authorities and private water authorities in a colony.
- To enable children to identify and map the problems with public water supply in the city and more specifically in the colony.
- To estimate the total investment and profits made by the private water suppliers in supplying water to this one colony.
- To explore the rules / regulations of water supply and allocation in the specific municipal area.
- This project will also help people see the social and political connections of water availability, extraction and pricing.
The purpose of this project is to develop an action plan involving the various stake-holders in each area to allocate water to all consumers at an affordable rate. The key hypothesis is that a conscious effort and dialogue among affected parties can ensure that a minimal equitable water supply is maintained. The hypothesis stems from the finite quantity of water that is available in any city or allocated to any colony. The basic idea is that water is life and every household has to have access to a minimum amount of safe and quality water supply everyday.
Materials / Equipment Required
- Map of the colony with water lines and discharge points drawn
- Pen and notebook
- Access to reference books / guides.
- You will first need to map the water lines / points and volume of discharge in the colony. The rough hand-sketched map should also include the information on points of loss / unauthorized use / seasonal fluctuation etc.
- Access / proximity mapping involves measuring the distance to and classifying the colony layout by the number of households close to the water supply / pumping station etc.
- Quantify each of the problem points – by amount of water lost at each point per day however, take the help of an elder person when you are working close to the pumps and connections. Children also need active and constructive supervision in handling this project. It involves measurements and access that are extremely sensitive.
- For private sources data will have to come from primary surveys asking for the amount of investment in water sourcing and supply. Price charged per unit of water, price paid to the municipality etc. is also to be obtained in the survey.
- Estimate the amount available from each source and identify reasons that prevent or distort public, as well as public sector access to these sources of water.
- Also identify and assess the extent to which private water supply violates public policy / water zonation. Try to find out answers to why water zonation is done? Who does it and how? What are the mechanisms that violate water zonation? How does public sector devise / arrange water supply for regions where groundwater has been identified as unfit for consumption? Are there rules that can be changed / need to be changed? If so, how?
- In cases where the data reveals polluted water supply, with parameters outside the norms prescribed by the State, children can ask whether people are willing to pay for such polluted water.
- Are people willing to reduce water use / save water? To face the health and other social consequences of buying (investing in) and using polluted / unsafe water outside the water zonation?
- Children can help design locally relevant questionnaires (with time and developing understanding, the pattern of questionnaire developed would change gradually) or preference schedules, with an additional column for reasons of preference. Children can enable adults to understand the reasons for preference which runs deeper and are more difficult to change than preferences themselves. It is this reason which would enable a further dialogue for action.
Observation and Data Analysis
The data demands interpretation t two different levels. First, children need to understand the real constraints that a responsible Government faces in ensuring safe water supply to the urban population. The data from the water maps – at the city and colony level can tell the children how the State / public sector and the individual water user (also part of the large private sector that demands and takes on its own water services) access water. Second, the data on private water investment at the individual household level and the private water operator level can be interpreted from two perspectives. That of the allegedly responsible public sector (that logically designs water zonations, water supply patterns, access, costs etc.) and that of the private water operator and individual violators who actually have a choice of adopting difficult but necessary water saving practices or paying heavily (economically, ecologically and socially – interms of public health) for this water.
The action plan will emerge from the focused group discussions and the negotiations mediated by children. Follow up demands major civic commitment from all sectors involved – especially the public sector and its legal institutions. This requires fairly long-term commitment from the children and their guides / motivators, and exploring all possible avenues of access to the decision makers.
Suggestive projects based on above
- This project can be taken up with all the objectives included – or it can be split into small sub-projects for kids in different age groups / schools to handle in one city. Linkages can be made to water related or water borne diseases (under the given sub-theme, ‘Water and Health’), water use and income group correlations, geohydrology and chemical content in water from different soil profiles, seepage patterns, etc. Linkages and action plans based on the findings – like social or political profile of private water extractors, their attitudes to natural resources, health etc. must also be made. It is important that water projects make these linkages because of the systems understanding inherent in water.
- Children can also ask questions like from where the water is brought to their households and for what purposes they are used. Also discuss with the children how the amount of water used for each domestic activity can be measured. Set a standard for measurement. See earlier projects for this.
Source: Harness water resources for a better future - Activity Guide for the 13th National Children's Science Congress