Abdalla Shah

Abdalla Shah

girl with bike
This study has been an important contribution in understanding the potential of domestic consumers to finance the water services management in the town

2002 Urban Fellow

Research Topic: Water Resources

Faculty Advisor: Robert Mendelsohn

Value of Improvements in Water Supply Reliability in Zanzibar Town

The rapid growth of Zanzibar Town and the worsening economic situation over the past two decades are putting significant strain on all social services and infrastructure. This includes the provision of water service to the town’s inhabitants. In the past three decades the water supply situation in Zanzibar Town has been deteriorating. Both the quantity and quality of supplied water have decreased. Currently, the shortage of water for home and other uses is a chronic problem in the town. This shortage has resulted in and compounded other socio-economic issues and has contributed to other environmental problems. For example, Zanzibar has been experiencing cholera outbreaks each year since 1978, and cholera is associated with consumption of unclean water1. In a broader study, Thompson et al (2002) noted that “diarrhoea is the most important public health problem affected by water and sanitation in East Africa.” The situation of the water supply in Zanzibar is very similar to that of other developing countries (Lee 1994, Whittington 1996, Savedoff and Spiller 1999, Mujwahuzi 2002, Thompson et al 2002). For instance, it is comparable to the deterioration of water quality and the degeneration of water supply services in Colombo, Sri Lanka (Kurukulasuriya and Mendelsohn, 2001). The water shortage and the drop in water quality in Zanzibar town have been caused and aggravated by multiple factors. These include an aged and poorly maintained water supply system, rapid urban expansion, limited natural supply sources, and the degradation of watersheds. The problems are further exacerbated by the current government policy of providing “free” water service to domestic water consumers and places of worship. The government has adopted this policy based on the premise that water is a human right and a necessity, that it should not be sold and bought as are other commodities. Furthermore the government argues that the majority of the town’s inhabitants are too poor to afford the services. In addition, it is generally considered that it is the responsibility of the government to provide its citizens with water services. 1 This connection is made without reference to any study that establishes a link between water shortage and environmental health in Zanzibar Town. 6 The policy has laudable intentions of providing the public with access to water at no or minimum costs. However, over time one of main outcomes of the policy has been the deterioration of the quality of the services provided. The water supply infrastructure is not maintained and has not been expanded partly because the government does not have enough funds to support the efficient management and delivery of water services. Also it is possible that the current policy is harming rather than helping the very society that it intends to assist. In fact, research has shown that in similar situations, such as in Haiti, the burden of coping with a deteriorating water system is often more acutely felt by the poorer households (Whittington 1991). It is clear that the government of Zanzibar - in spite of maintaining a policy of providing free water services – has no financial capability to support an efficiently and effectively functioning water supply system for the people of Zanzibar Town and Zanzibar as a whole. This study is an attempt to establish the value of water supply services to the people of Zanzibar Town by measuring their Willingness to Pay (WTP) for reliable water supply services, so as to provide basis for change of the financing policy for water supply services management. This study was conducted using the Contingent Valuation (CV) method; 300 people in Zanzibar Town were interviewed. The interview responses were then analyzed to establish the value of the water supply services to the town’s inhabitants. The results of this study have shown that contrary to the government’s belief, the people of Zanzibar Town put value in the water services that they receive. Thus, they are willing to pay for improved water services but will generally be reluctant to pay for the poor services that are currently being provided. This study recommends that it is important that the government realize the fact that there is immediate need for asking the domestic consumers to financially support the management of the water supply system. The government should introduce a charge for water services so as funds can be raised to support the management of water services in Zanzibar Town. The result of this study indicates that the people are willing to pay for water services; thus, the government of Zanzibar should change its policy of “free water for everyone” and institute charges for the provision of water services. 7 Nevertheless, it is not clear whether a change of policy would result in improved water services because the existing government revenue collection structure is centralized and there is no guarantee that the funds that will be collected will be invested in water supply services. The tariff level and amount of revenue projected in this report may not reflect the real cost of running the town’s water supply services. Even with these uncertainties the recommendations are made as a contribution in developing a realistic water service management policy. It is a contribution to starting a change of policies and perceptions of water services management. For these policy recommendations to work calls for the overhaul of water supply services management and administration.