The Economics of Clean Water: A Guest Post

INSERT DESCRIPTIONDavid Zetland

David Zetland is the S.V. Ciriacy-Wantrup Postdoctoral Fellow in Natural Resource Economics and Political Economy at U.C. Berkeley. He writes about the economics of water on his blog aguanomics and has recently appeared on Forbes.com and Fox Business News, discussing America’s “water crisis.” He has agreed to guest blog here this week. This is his first of two posts.

Potability, Politics, and Pipes

By David Zetland

A Guest Post

In 2000, the United Nations declared an intention to reach eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) — each with one or more targets — by 2015. The MDG’s are attracting a lot of money, but money can’t fix everything.

Since I’m a water guy, I’ll explain how money may not work by looking at Target 3 of MDG 7:

Halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

Let’s begin with some baseline figures: According to the U.N., 78 percent of the world’s population had access to improved drinking water sources in 1990. As of 2004 (most recent data), that share was 83 percent. (For sanitation, the figures are 49 percent in 1990 and 59 percent in 2004, but let’s ignore this sub-target for now. Let’s also ignore the 1990 baseline for a program that began in 2000.)

But wait, did you notice the discrepancy? The goal being measured and pursued (improved drinking water sources) is not the originally proclaimed goal (sustainable access to safe drinking water). This discrepancy is no accident. Rather, it reflects the difference between the ambitions of development activists (safe and sustainable) and the realities of development bureaucrats.

Since “safe” is hard to measure, bureaucrats use the presence of “improved drinking water supplies” as a proxy for water quality — and they quantify that by counting pipes, pumps, and faucets. Their treatment of sustainable is even worse: “Sustainable access is currently not measured for reasons of a lack of common understanding [of] what constitutes sustainable access and how to reliably measure it [on a] global scale.”

Oops.

As Peter Drucker once said: “what gets measured gets managed.”

We know that thousands of well-meaning people will be spending billions of dollars to install pipes, pumps, etc. Will those pipes deliver safe and sustainable water? We can’t be sure about that result — since it’s not being measured — but we can be sure that projects that deliver pipes will get funded, bureaucrats who deliver 100 percent pipe coverage will be lauded for helping the poor, and outsiders are likely to confuse 100 percent pipe coverage with 100 percent access to “safe and sustainable” drinking water.

Bureaucrats will declare victory, outsiders will applaud, projects will wrap up, money will disappear, and those unlucky enough to have pipes with unsafe and unsustainable water will be left to their own devices.

So has the international development community tried to avoid such an ineffective and wasteful outcome? No. Instead, it has pressed for enough money to install pipes everywhere. Perhaps the most famous proponent of this “solution” (besides Bono) is Jeffrey Sachs, who consistently calls for more money to be poured into MDG’s and international aid.

Is it possible, however, that money spent on pipes will help? Perhaps yes but probably not. Effective water management requires good institutions — i.e., a framework for the formation and enforcement of local rules and norms that will deliver safe and sustainable local supplies. After all, how useful is a well without a means of allocating its water or maintaining its flow? How safe are pipes when they carry water of unknown quality? How sustainable is supply from an overdrafted aquifer?

The trouble with Target 3 of Goal 7 (and other targets, you can be sure) is not just that it has been reinterpreted to meet the needs of bureaucrats (rather than the poor), but that its proponents think that money alone can deliver results.

Bottom Line: MDG warriors, by emphasizing money over institutions, are unlikely to deliver safe and sustainable water. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait until 2015 for them to learn that.

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COMMENTS: 43


  1. Jeffrey says:

    As Zetland points out, most international development projects are this way. We spend millions and millions, and much of it goes to bureaucrats and US/European consultants. That’s not to say we shouldn’t have such programs–we just need a massive adjustment in how they’re administered. I fear politics will win out, though, and policies will suffer as a result. Par for the course in 202.

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  2. Lee says:

    Water is one of the essential requirements to sustain life and a very basic one at that. It is something that is taken for granted in developed countries but a fundamental issue in most developing countries. My experience is in agriculture but I have seen the impact of water quality in rural areas which suffer from malaria, dysentery and other water-related diseases. This leads to a chain reaction of disease, low productivity and economic stagnation. The issues are local and need to be addressed locally not mandated from a centralized authority.

    The other problem related to this issue is water use for irrigation. Once irrigation is available, farmers switch to cash crops which means less biodiversity and dependence on trade for food supply. It is myopic and short-sighted to emphasize only one aspect of the issue and not see the interrelationship of health, economic development and sustainability. The problem will not get any attention until it reaches a critical point and remedial measures takes priority over preventative ones which in most cases are more cost-prohibitive and ineffective.

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  3. M Todd says:

    Of course the easier and more direct solution is to start drilling wells for local groups. The UN and the government will waste much of the resources because they think in large dollar projects that are susceptible to corruption.

    Here is a simple solution that works. My wife became aware of charitywater.org who decided to do something about the fresh water problem in the third world. Drill wells. One well on the average will supply about 500 people. The cost ranges from 4K to 12K to drill depending on the local and depth.

    To date they have drilled over 250 wells with the money to drill 300 more. The organization was started by a NY club promoter who visited Africa as part of a hospital ship. All the money collected goes to drilling wells. The cost of administration is covered by a private individual.

    It only proves that you do not have a big budget, or thousands of people to do big things. Most donations are 20 dollars, but together thousands of people make a difference, without waiting for the UN to do something.

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  4. JGunn says:

    The comment about drilling more wells does not address the problem of water quality or sustainability.

    I’m no expert in water, but I do have a lot of experience with monitoring and evaluation of projects in developing countries, and am also dismayed at the sloppy adoption of “measurable indicators” that are convenient for the bureaucrats but miss the mark in all other respects. The bureaucrats and donors are lazy and want to tick boxes rather than figure out whether we are really making progress toward meaningful goals. What to do? Sound monitoring and evaluation isn’t cheap or easy.

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  5. Jamie F. says:

    The point that building pipes is not enough is harder for some people to latch on to than you might expect. Mr. Bono and Mr. Sachs, etc.

    Maybe it would be helpful to contrast supply of other services like internet access (fungible, infinite supply) to the supply of water.

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  6. JJE says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Great points. Thanks for the piece. How about taking on the elephant in the room domestically — which is that all the toxics that we create and literally pour down the drain, we expect to be removed. But, tests for the the materials we put in our drains are not used in water treatment. So, is the water really safe? Or just “safe” given our current and limited methods of measuring it? This is similar to what you’re talking about above. The desirable outcome is not measurable, so we substitute the nearest most readily accessible data as a proxy, which in the public’s mind is the same.

    I think eventually we are going to have to grapple with addressing toxics on the front end. That is, some toxic materials literally can’t be manufactured unless they can be verifiably removed in water treatment facilities. Do we really want to just run a massive experiment in low-dose exposures to toxics on all Americans? Seems like that’s what we’re doing. Love to hear your thoughts on this.

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  7. steve pesce says:

    I can’t help but think that an article like this should reference Ralph Nader who has fought this battle (along with higher fuel standards and workplace conditions) for 50 years.

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  8. R.C. says:

    Interesting topic. I liked your point about how institutions redefine their goals to fit the results that they are capable of creating (e.g. “we can build pipelines, so let’s just make more pipelines the goal.” A few questions/comments for you:

    1. Why can’t water quality be measured as well?

    2. Won’t your suggestion — implementing a local framework of rules and norms for clean water — require money?

    3. Although water pipes alone do not equal clean water, are they not necessary for providing clean water to cities? Do you believe that water pipes are only part of the solution (and incorrectly being used as a barameter of success), or that they are entirely irrelevant?

    Thanks.

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  9. mitchald says:

    Zetland complains that agencies are not using terminology and goals that are accurate and focused on the true problems. His idea of a reachable goal that outside agencies can achieve is “a framework for the formation and enforcement of local rules and norms that will deliver safe and sustainable local supplies.”

    How would it be possible, without colonization, for outside agencies to reach this goal? Should the UN have a peacekeeper force that goes around the world enforcing local rules and norms? Which local rules and norms should be enforced? Many local norms say that rich people should have what they want and poor people should be quiet. Is this what Zetland wants enforced?

    This article on a very important topic was a waste of space.

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  10. Rich says:

    Drinking water requires the mindset of creating permanent organizations to function as utilities to operate and maintain any capital investments. Organization like Charity Water (as M Todd noted), Lifewater International, Bloodwater, Staff of Hope, and World Vision to name a few take this long view of partnering with local communities to take ownership of well and irrigation projects.

    There are a stunning number of 10-15 year old wells that no longer produce potable water in Sub-Saharan Africa because no one was there to tend to the upkeep, only to make the initial investment.

    Mr. Zetland has got it right. The right metrics drive the right behavior. Just throwing money at the problem (even in the form of plumbing) won’t solve the problem.

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  11. DRR says:

    It would be scary if the very same analogy was applied for blood transfusions and scarier if it was true.

    i.e the desired outcome (no disease transmission) is not the one measured-(oops we did not check for that one)

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  12. Peter Douglas says:

    I’ve visited many places where tap water is not drinkable. Instead we boil it then drink it. Having water in your house is a lot easier than walking miles to carry water back.

    Also, when people talk about ‘pipes’ I think that is shorthand for a water infrastructure.

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  13. Cyril Morong says:

    I would like to know what professor Zetland thinks of a new movie (documentary) out now called:

    Flow: For Love of Water

    The Plot: A documentary that addresses how dwindling resources, pollution, privatization and other factors are affecting the world water supply. (from IMDB)

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  14. SP says:

    Potable water is getting scarce everyday and is a serious problem. Population is not really as big a problem as water is. In the context of India, in spite of its high population density and more than 1 billion people, theoretically all the citizens can be accomodated in a single large state of India if they are all housed in 4 storied apartment buildings which has 16 apartments each. Yet that state will have population density less than New Delhi.

    But the problem of potable water is much greater. Already in Bangladesh and Indian states like West Bengal, the aquifer has gone so low that the water contains too much natural Arsenic. This is causing numerous deaths.

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  15. George says:

    So-called sustainable buildings want to push their certification by saying they capture rainwater. You can at home too. But this means less goes into the ground and into the rivers. How does this help?

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  16. Captain Democracy says:

    As an Architect and graduate of U.C. Berkeley I spent some time at the U.C. Berkeley Richmond Field Station with the BIO-ALGOL Research Group and they had an experimental working model of transforming city sewage into algae and fresh water and methane gas with fertilizer. The idea was to pump L.A., San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento sewage into the desert and substitute gray water with farm water which would be pumped to the cities, what happened?

    Dr. John Benaeman P.H.D. (Chemistry) from Switzerland was in charge. Can you find him and interview him?

    http://www.CaptainDemocracy.wordpress.com

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  17. CamilaCMS says:

    The solution to the global problem of attaining fresh and usable drinking water isn’t as easy. In fact, the UN makes this problem sound extremely simple. As the article explained, it isn’t enough to throw money at the problem, which is what many politicians suggest. Sure, wells may be drilled and pipes installed. However, the next big step is education. If villagers and others who populate isolated areas of the world aren’t educated, they won’t use newly installed resources wisely. In fact, this will lead to well contamination, if they are cooking or cleaning with water within 30 feet of the well.

    So when the United Nations gets together to discuss the Millennium Goals and decides that providing fresh water should be available for everyone, they help beaurocrats sleep at night because this is an issue that they can throw money at and the UN also feels that they just made a big step to make a difference in the world. But what most politicans and beuarocrats don’t take into consideration is process that leads to the desired outcome. Stating a goal to be acheived in 15 years is not enough. And as the Millennium Goals deadline approaches, it won’t be hard to identify why the world is still very similar to the day that these plans were made.

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  18. S. Banerji says:

    I think the basic point being made in this article is that “outcome” of a water project ie. providing sustainable access to safe potable water for all residents in an area -is often mistakenly conflated or confused with the “Output” of a project which could be laying water pipes to each home. There are huge barriers in translating project “outputs” into effective “outcomes”.

    Accessing sustainable sources of raw water supply is a big one. Wells can be contaminated, run dry, suffer from arsenic contamination or cause the land surface to sink because of excessive extraction of raw water as in Bangkok. Water projects usually serve urban areas and local governments/ municipalities or utilities manage these facilities. Efficient management of water and waste water facilities is a difficult job. Unaccounted for Water (UFW) can run as high as 80% of production in developing countries which comprises both physical losses and unbilled water. In a middle income country like Turkey, the average UFW is 50%. So building pipes alone is the easy part , running the business efficiently to achieve the desired ‘outcome’ of bringing safe, affordable and sustainable access to water to both rich and poor is difficult. Water supply is also a monopoly unlike the Internet or TV which further complicates the business.

    By the way , the same problem exists in other networked utilities. In the electricity sector, many generation facilities in developing countries produce less than 50% rated output. Yet, many developing country governments with the backing of international development banks have financed more new generating plants rather than investing in improving the efficiency of existing ones and the T&D system. There are powerful incentives working behind such investment decisions. You can guess what these are!

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  19. Tom K says:

    The biggest problem is the word “aquifer.” Seriously, ask anyone where water comes from. 99.99% haven’t the slightest idea. The idea that you can run out of water in an area that’s not already a desert is so far off the radar of even semi-educated people, it’s like trying to explain astrophysics to a house cat.

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  20. BillTeachesInDC says:

    What gets measured gets managed.

    A great and profound thought. I’d love to see Freakonomics reports that continue to harp on this theme: in my own field, NCLB reforms are plagued by the hobgoblin of measuring the wrong things.

    The thought is a concise summary of the mortgage meltdown, of Moneyball, and of why I fight with my boss.

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  21. David Zetland says:

    @JJE — see this post on my blog: http://aguanomics.com/2008/09/dont-drink-water.html

    Quality issues are indeed a major problem and information is at their center.

    @ RC — water quality *can* be measured, but it takes more time and money. Implementing a local framework may take time and money but it will save a lot more time and money. Yes — pipes are PART of the solution — like you need to know how to drive before a car is useful.

    @michald — I am not a fan of international agencies and their good idea. Local norms should be enforced by (surprise!) locals.

    @Cyril — my opinion the movie: http://aguanomics.com/2008/08/flow-movie.html

    @George — I’d favor rainwater capture over letting it go to downriver rights holders because rainwater — used locally — is cleaner and requires no energy or pipes for delivery.

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  22. Carl Hultberg says:

    I remember reading a statistic that claimed a large percentage of the world’s water problems could be solved with the money spent on alcohol consumption in Europe over a short period of time. Any memories of this?

    How about a world tax on alcoholic beverages, the proceeds of which would go to water development projects in underdeveloped areas? I bet most folks would gladly drink to that.

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  23. Noggy says:

    An implication of this post is that naive do-gooders such as Bono and Sachs think that investment in hardware is sufficient, and haven’t considered the importance developing social and political institutions. While the point about the difficulty of measuring outcomes is valid, the hostile caricature of the work of Bono – and especially Sachs – is unwarranted.

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  24. sarahCMS says:

    Providing safe water for people is very important, since without it, then people will start to become sick, and having to spend their time and moeny in hospitals; not a very efficient situation. As this article explains, having lots of money it’s not the solution. This money needs to be used wisely in order to make an efficient job. As this states,”effective water management requires good institutions”. Probably more money should be spent in educationg people who can build these effective institutions.

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  25. HildaCMS says:

    Water is by far one of the most vital substances for life and it was getting scarcer every day. Many places on Earth do not have access to any kind of water, much less clean, usable water. Considering this I do not think that the UN is completely off track. Although many more places now have pipes and wells, which offer them water, the water is not necessarily clean or disease-free. But I believe that it is a start. You have to walk before you can run. People need access to water before they can actually have clean water. Now many more people have access to any kind of water, let it be clean or dirty, but they do have access, meaning they are one step closer to having water they can actually use. In time, the water can be purified and what not, but the systems and pipes are definitely a start. The UN now has to concentrate on raising the standards of the water and cleaning it for the people.

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  26. Daniel says:

    The article makes sense. If the right metrics are put in place, lo and behold local govt’s will look for the right local talent to solve the problem. Right now, any locals with knowledge on how to meet the water quality standards, are shouted down, or fired for not meeting the “pipes” goals, and getting in the way of “development”.

    It really is common sense, go to a local market in a developing country, go to the village, and they will tell you what metrics to measure, i.e. potable, clean water for x no of the population.

    The science behind measuring clean water is really easy, and in quite a number of developing countries is readily available.

    Posted by “Local” Water talent.

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  27. M. Garcia says:

    Monitoring and evaluating is key. But it will be a big investment and can’t be haphazard. To be useful measures must be logistically practical and be applicable to a plethora of water solutions.

    Different types of measures will be needed on different scales. For example, locally, a cluster of villages may want inventories of materials needed regularly (such as CL and spare parts) so they can manage supplies. Regionally, locations of wells, springs, sanitation facilities, and sampling points along with types of treatment used can help manage water and health. An organization such as the UN might better served with broad data such as the improved water and sanitation access along with health data, and river/aquifer levels.

    As a side note: evaluation (determining if the correct choices were made in improving water and sanitation) should also be considered as part of monitoring.

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  28. PedroCMS says:

    @Carl Hutlberg

    If you have read any of the other posts, you might realize that everyone agrees that money apparently is not the issue. Therefore, taxing is useless.

    Installing useless pipes is just as bad as not installing them. Money can only solve so much of the problem. After that point, people need to be educated and institutions must be proved capable in managing this new investment. It’s like buying a your mom a brand new iPod without even teaching her how to use it. If you buy it for her and never see her again, it’s going to be up to her to figure it out. And that’s not going to be very productive.

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  29. Jim says:

    “His idea of a reachable goal that outside agencies can achieve is “a framework for the formation and enforcement of local rules and norms that will deliver safe and sustainable local supplies.

    How would it be possible, without colonization, for outside agencies to reach this goal? Should the UN have a peacekeeper force that goes around the world enforcing local rules and norms? Which local rules and norms should be enforced? Many local norms say that rich people should have what they want and poor people should be quiet. Is this what Zetland wants enforced?

    This article on a very important topic was a waste of space.

    — Posted by mitchald

    ******************************

    As another poster noted, the pipes are infrastructure. But they are only the physical half of the infrastructure, the hardware without the software; the railroad tracks without the railway companies to maintain track and equipment, provide services to customers, schedule shipments, and make sure the trains don’t collide.

    Mitchald has introduced some of the complications that explain why bureaucrats and aid agencies find it easier to deliver hardware than development complete with the institutional components.

    Outside agencies can’t impose solutions but with patience and wisdom they can facilitate their growth.

    Unfortunately mitchald seems to expect Zetland to have simplistic answers to complex questions that depend a lot on local context. If he wants that kind of argument, he should know better than to look for it in a newspaper column.

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  30. RC says:

    Thanks for responding (#21) to my questions (#8).

    As for Camila’s argument (#17), I doubt anyone at the UN thinks that the MDGs are enough all by themselves. I think the idea is to lay out some identifiable goals. That’s not a bad place to start.

    David, your point that the wrong measurements are being used to measure progress with MDG 7, target 3, reminds me of JK Galbraith’s “The Affluent Society” — along with a slew of recent economic literature on happiness — which points out the falicy in relying on broad economic indicators like GDP to measure progress or development. Seems to be a reoccuring theme these days: how do we define progress? You seem to have good suggests for how to do so in the area of clean water.

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  31. Peter Schulze says:

    Without wishing to suggest apologies for corruption etc., I’m basically with RC. Will all of you who are enjoying taking easy potshots please forego the use of pipes for a few weeks.

    Oh, and in common parlance sustainable doesn’t mean anything anymore, or at best means “not as bad as the sorry current situation.” It certainly doesn’t “capable of being sustained indefinitely.”

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  32. Johnny E says:

    So what do you think of T. Boone Pickens’ plan to acquire everybody’s water rights so he can sell water back to them, at a huge profit of course?

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  33. Rozmarija Grauds says:

    I’ve had a lifelong awe of water, never grow accustomed to seeing its brilliance bursting from a tap.In nature, I can’t pass a river view without being mesmerized by the beauty. Over the years I’ve created ways to use the least amount effectively, have dishwashing down to a science – HAND washing,of course, minimum water maximum sanitary result, all subconsciously done. Showering or washing hair also gets attention, we live in a house and can save shower-water for the garden,or for flushing toilets in winter. Yes, I’m over the top, water is my religion.But then why not, we came from water, we’re mostly composed of water, and there’s no substitute for it.I don’t like drinking it from a paper cup, must SEE its magic.

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  34. silas valle says:

    As long as the population of any country keep the habit of using gallons and gallons of POTABLE water to put away excrements and urine, everytime they go to the bathroom, it makes no sense talking about insuficiency of water in the Planet! Water has to be considered as a holly, sacred thing!

    Humanity will have to go back to time… when there was “a little house” outside, where one’d deposit his excrements… There will be time that all apartment buildings will have collective bathrooms and water will be ONLY for DRINKING and making medicines, etc…(& some beer…) Neither the Amazon River is enough for the wastefulness of water we have in the occident.

    Live and you shall see: In a short future we will no more waste gallons and gallons of water and have 2,3,4 or more restrooms in a house, condomin ium, hotel…

    Silas Valle

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  35. CamilaCMS says:

    To RC: I don’t claim that the UN acts only on goals, but I do strongly believe that there isn’t enough economic planning and followup that goes along with these goals. That’s why few, if any, of the millennium goals will be acheived with 2015 comes around.

    What I’m suggesting is that due to the layout of the UN, where all ideas are submitted through vague resolutions, the best way to solve this problem isn’t through this organization. As the post in the article claims, beaurocracy plays a big role in hindering a solution.

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  36. PekeCMS says:

    When I read about this issue it reminded me of Corruption. The reason why I say this is because many corrupt governments and people create technology or any infrastructure just to present it and so the public believe they are actually doing something. In reality, these creations, in this case pipe systems, are simply being created by the thousands, while administrations aren’t really working to make sure these pipe systems truly benefit the environment. The main opportunity cost is time, the time authorities spend created badly administrated water system, the more time it will take for the world to truly improve.

    Referring to what Camila had said, the United Nations puts it really simple. Things of this magnitude aren’t so easy to do. More time and thinking is needed.

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  37. David Foster says:

    Thanks David Zetland. You have made an important contribution but only touched the tip of this iceberg. Municipal water in India, for example, is priced so low that revenues rarely cover the operating costs much less the capital costs of drinking water supply. As a consequence, there is never enough money to maintain the water lines and leakage rates (Unaccounted for Water Losses) frequently approach 70%. Ironically, the prices are kept low in the name of protecting the poor but the poor are rarely even connected to the water lines and they wind up gathering water from hydrants or vendors at costs per kiloliter 10 to 20 times as much as that charged to their wealthier neighbors.

    Furthermore, while the low prices may seem like a bargain for the middle and upper income consumers, the high leakage rates and poor service mean that most people only receive water for a few hours per day. (People in Hyderabad, for example, receive only 90 minutes of water every other day.) As a direct consequence of this intermittent water supply, even those connected to the water lines must pay far more to cope with bad service than it would have cost for good 24/7 service in the first place. Some of these coping costs routinely paid by residents include: underground storage tanks, rooftop tanks, pumps for moving water to the roof, and in house treatment systems to treat the water contaminated during distribution. Sadly, Hyderabad is not alone. New Delhi, the wealthiest and most heavily subsidized city, provides continuous (24/7) service to only about 10% of the population. The middle class receive only about 3 hours per day and there is never enough water left over for the poor.

    Furthermore, when the pipes are riddled with leaks and pressurized for only a few hours per day, the rest of the day they become a magnet for raw sewage, sucking contaminated surface water into the lines and delivering it right to your tap.

    In short, what is desparately needed in not more money but better management. In most cases, higher prices, coupled with improved management, would actually lead to lower costs and better service for rich and poor alike.

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  38. M todd says:

    Response to 4)

    Drilling for clean water is not a mystery. In the west we do not consider tap water clean, but in reality it is safe and drinkable. My home has a well which was drilled 35 years ago, it is safe, it is pure water. The other 157 homes in our neighborhood are well water as well. Most rual homes are well water.

    40 percent of the illness in the 3rd world can be traced back to poor drinking water. Most wells are safe, efficient, and do not require grand infrastructures. Where wells will not meet the needs of a large urban population, in rural areas it can mean the difference between life and death. Once you tap in the sub surface aquifer most of that water is safe.

    Instead of thinking in terms of large water projects only a refocus on small local projects such as well drilling, can mean fresh safe drinking water for 10s of millions of people for a fraction of the cost. There are also new small distillation units that require less than 50 cents in energy per day and produce 5 gallons of water an hour. That is 120 gallons a day which would meet the drinking water needs of 100 to 200 people a day.

    The problem with these programs is they do not require large infrastructures that require large budgets. Contractors and politicians get excited about billion dollar projects because it means millions in profits. That is why individuals like myself are focusing on helping private and small charities who are focusing on small manageable solutions that work. It may not be the total answer, but it is one that is getting results quickly and efficiently.

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  39. David Zetland says:

    Thanks everyone for the really amazing comments. This post and the comments show what the whoel web 2.0 thing was all about.

    @Johnny E — Check out this post on Pickens (http://aguanomics.com/2008/08/easy-pickens_06.html). He’s definitely exploiting existing institutions.

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  40. William says:

    Here in Chengdu, China, the water is considered clean enough to rinse one’s mouth with, but not clean enough to swallow without boiling once.

    Worse yet, when I went to Moscow & St. Petersburg in 2003 I was instructed not to drink the water, and even to be careful when showering.

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  41. lukram says:

    Those above views on water is quite an insight for me as i was looking for more information regarding water and its problems. LDCs being the most prone to such issues concerning water or whatever bla bla and me being living in such countries makes a lot of sense. Hoped to read more views on water and other issues.

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  42. VenezuelanAQ says:

    One may think that this only happens in sub-saharan least developed countries but it happens more often that we’d like. Hugo Chavez has been constantly vowed overseas for accomplishing this MDG, and his government is cynical enough to post on the Water Company’s web site (public entreprise) “Water should be declared a Human Right”. Nontheless, I know for a fact cases, in which the pipes are all there is, which counts as “access” but the supply bearly comes once a month. There is a very desertic state at the north east coast of Venezuela called Sucre, and I know a person from there who has carried on countless protests for over three years, complaining that they live with their faucets open “just in case water comes”, and ever since he remembers (he is 23 years old) they have never had continous water supply for longer than two days

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  43. Gregory Wiszniewski says:

    This is a concern even in the cleaning service industry. While clients like ours have access to clean water, they request we use green products to sanitize their faucets or water fountains. This is a more expensive request, but then again just how well are these products sanitizing? So do we put more chemicals into our water systems or use green chemicals to help maintain clean water supplies?
    I wrote a bit more about this on my blog if anyone is interested.
    http://www.bbcleaningservice.com/blog/what-everyone-ought-to-know-about-children-and-green-cleaning/

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