Water flows, energy demand, and market analysis of the informal water sector in Kisumu, Kenya. Ecol Econ. 2013 March 1; 87: 137–144.
Laura C. Sima, et al.
In rapidly growing urban areas of developing countries, infrastructure has not been able to cope with population growth. Informal water businesses fulfill unmet water supply needs, yet little is understood about this sector. This paper presents data gathered from quantitative interviews with informal water business operators (n=260) in Kisumu, Kenya, collected during the dry season. Sales volume, location, resource use, and cost were analyzed by using material flow accounting and spatial analysis tools.
Estimates show that over 76% of the city’s water is consumed by less than 10% of the population who have water piped into their dwellings. The remainder of the population relies on a combination of water sources, including water purchased directly from kiosks (1.5 million m3 per day) and delivered by hand-drawn water-carts (0.75 million m3 per day). Energy audits were performed to compare energy use among various water sources in the city. Water delivery by truck is the highest per cubic meter energy demand (35 MJ/m3), while the city’s tap water has the highest energy use overall (21,000 MJ/day).
We group kiosks by neighborhood and compare sales volume and cost with neighborhood-level population data. Contrary to popular belief, we do not find evidence of price gouging; the lowest prices are charged in the highest-demand low-income area. We also see that the informal sector is sensitive to demand, as the number of private boreholes that serve as community water collection points are much larger where demand is greatest.