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The Paradox of water user demand and satisfaction

Published on: 09/10/2014

In 2013, IRC/ Triple-S Uganda conducted an assessment of the performance of the Service Delivery Model for point water sources. Findings show that there was generally a low service levels but ironically, users were satisfied. This working paper attempts to explain the reasons for that paradox.  

Users’ payment for and satisfaction with rural water services provides a striking story behind the factors that affect demand for water. The story emerges from the study conducted by Triple-S Uganda in 2012/13 on Assessment of performance of the service delivery model for point water supply facilities in 16 Sub counties in eight districts in Technical Support Units 2 & 6 (Northern and Mid western Uganda). 

In the study, users’ satisfaction was used to get perspectives of the water users on the different parameters of the service: quality, quantity, reliability and convenience/distance. In addition, the assessment measured the actual levels of service received by users, levels of performance of service managers, and levels of performance of service authorities and institutional support mechanisms.

The findings on water users’ satisfaction with reliability and service level delivered show interesting results. Users are generally satisfied with the very low level of service they receive, which clearly shows that they are not aware of the standards that their rural water service is expected to meet. This makes it difficult for the users to demand for a better service. Payment for water also does not guarantee a better service especially where point water supply technologies (boreholes / shallow wells fitted with hand pumps, and protected springs) are used. The water users pay a standard fee irrespective of the quantity of water. That is in addition to the issues of long distances from the household to the source as well as crowding at the source. 

Action points

  • Service Authorities avail users with information on the attributes of water service that they are entitled to and their obligations to enable them hold service providers accountable as they are also held accountable on their obligations.
  • Monitoring of rural water services should go beyond tracking functionality of water supply facilities to capture data on level of service delivered. Absence of this data hinders planning for service level improvement.
  • District water office should be proactive in communicating about costs of maintaining rural water facilities, resources available for operation and maintenance, expected user contributions and the funding shortfalls. This will enable them to engage the local government political and technical leadership in revisiting public financing options and user tariffs.