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Spreading payments helps the poorest residents save money and receive a cleaner supply of water

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In the Philippine city of Cebu, the poorest people pay more than average for water that is dirty. A Dutch-Filipino team is trying to tackle this problem. The solution is surprisingly simple, by enabling people to pay their bills on a daily basis they save time and money.

In some areas of Tipolo, residents no longer have to fetch water from the neighbourhood pump. Using a water app, Judit Omaña collects money from them for their tap at home. Since being connected to the water supply system, 20 litres of water costs 1 peso (1.5 eurocents). A third as much as before, when people relied on bottled or barreled water. Not everyone trusts the tap water system yet, even though the quality is monitored monthly.

Municipal water network

The municipal water network does not serve the informal neighbourhoods like Tipolo. French NGO, Eau et Vie (Water is Life), sets up social enterprises which buy the water from the city water company. The enterprise lays its network of water pipes to distribute the water. Residents only pay for their own connection. At first they pay daily, then per 2days and eventually per month. The idea is that residents get used to setting aside money for the water bill.

Public Private Partnership

The project is part of a Dutch-funded public-private partnership (ppp); the Sustainable and Resilient Pro-Poor Water Supply Project. The Sustainable Water Fund subsidises the project. Cebu’s water company, the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD) has an office for Brit Patrick Egan of Dutch Vitens Evides International (VEI). He heads the PPP between VEI, the MCWD and the Philippine Red Cross.

In addition to the Eau et Vie project, the partnership is experimenting with another solution. The Philippine water company and VEI allows customers to pay the connection fee in installments. Many families in the poor districts of Cebu are not able to pay the 82 euros connection charge straight away, but can manage it if it is spread over 12 months.

The main advantage of the project is that being connected to mains water reduces the cost of water for the poorest residents, who otherwise pay up to 5000 pesos (83 euros) per month to the water truck or for bottled water. At the same time the water is cleaner and therefore safer as well as being more convenient.

Read more about this Sustainable Water Fund project in the original Vice Versa World of Water article 'By connecting people to the water, you make them part of society' (page 42).


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