Poor pay more for water

Posted: 13 December 2000

According to the UN-supported World Commission on Water for the 21st Century, poor people in many countries pay much more for water than their better off neighbours.

The reason, according to the Commission, "is that the price of water is kept artificially low by government subsidies, making water systems inefficient and unprofitable. Such systems simply bypass the poor, who turn in desperation to private water carriers, who may charge up to 100 times the municipal rates for water of very dubious quality."

The Chair of the Commission, Mr Ismail Serageldin, former Vice-president of the World Bank, said that the poorest families often spend as much as 30 per cent of their meagre incomes on water. "Yet subsidies are defended in the name of the poor, " he pointed out. "This perverse situation has got to be tackled."

In Haiti, for instance, private water vendors charge 100 times more for water than the city of Port au Prince. But only better-off neighbourhoods are connected to the municipal water system.

In order to address growing water shortages and deteriorating quality in many areas, especially in cities, Serageldin suggested that subsidies for water should end and a system of graduated fees based on water use introduced instead.

For further information vist the World Commission on Water website.