what we work on

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Urban Water

Water connections for all

Photo by Zitto Zuberi Kabwe CC BY

As Tanzania’s population booms, urban sprawl is rapid. Most new arrivals to towns and cities end up in unplanned settlements, where access to safe drinking water is most limited. This poses a catastrophic threat to public health: in Tanzania alone it’s estimated more than 16,500 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene conditions.   

Even where connection to the public network is possible, poorer households can’t afford the initial installation fee. Women are disproportionately burdened with collecting water from public water points, and where those don’t exist families resort to less safe, more expensive sources. A patchwork of local solutions exists, some privately-driven, others funded by NGOs, but if Tanzania is to attain universal access to clean water, expansion of the public network, despite very limited resources, is essential. I4ID is working with the urban water authority of Singida, central Tanzania, to tackle this huge challenge with strategic planning and innovative financial solutions.

Our first step was to get a clear understanding of the existing SUWASA infrastructure network and its proximity to potential new customers. We surveyed 8,500 existing customers and more than 10,000 households, currently unserved, to gauge their willingness to pay for individual water connections and mapped each meter number using GPS. This database and mapping helps Singida Urban Water Supply Authority (SUWASA) make smart, strategic investment decisions. Access to finance is key so we are brokering relationships with private banks that provide innovative financial products for utilities expansion. This will allow households to access a loan for the connection cost, paid directly to SUWASA, who can themselves access additional loans for new pipes and infrastructure.

 Basing expansion plans on commercial viability has the added benefit of depoliticising a service that is traditionally fraught with tension, reducing the risk of expansion being stymied by local or regional governments.