Around the city of Cochabamba in Bolivia, about 800 locally-managed water supply systems serve communities in peri-urban areas. One system in Challacaba is fairly typical: with a deep borehole linked to a piped network serving 435 inhabitants in 60 households. Like many other community-managed systems, it offers a high quality, dependable service at very low cost. Water is available 24 hours a day, compared to only two hours a day at the nearest point (two kilometres away) served by the city water supply company SEMAPA.
Although there are elevated manganese levels in the groundwater supply, there was no microbial contamination, in contrast to the SEMAPA supply, which is not fit to drink. Water is supplied to the members of the system on a metered basis, at a cost of US$ 0.19/m3 compared to US$ 0.51/m3 for the SEMAPA supply.
A study by Agua Tuya for the multiple use water services (MUS) project questions the widespread belief, among professionals rather than communities, that centralised utilities offer economies of scale in providing water in peri-urban Cochabamba.
The study documents the experiences of the Asociación de Usuarios de Agua Potable Challacaba and the key factors that enabled the community to create a users’ association and a sustainable water distribution scheme. It reveals a self-reinforcing, virtuous-loop between a good low cost water service, productive uses to maximise benefits, improved willingness to pay, and an ability to invest to maintain and improve the system.
Income through Raising Animals and Milk Production
It is now possible for households to use the water supply for productive activities, especially raising animals and milk production. Such water-intensive activities generate income and help households to sustain livelihoods. For the 44% of families who keep animals, consumption is 12.9 m3/month (86 lpcd) compared to 9.7 m3month (65 lpcd) for families without animals.
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre
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