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Measuring household consumption and waste in unmetered, intermittent piped water systems


Measurements of household water consumption are extremely difficult in intermittent water supply (IWS) regimes in low- and middle-income countries, where water is delivered for short durations, taps are shared, metering is limited, and household storage infrastructure varies widely. Nonetheless, consumption estimates are necessary for utilities to improve water delivery. We estimated household water use in Hubli-Dharwad, India, with a mixed-methods approach combining (limited) metered data, storage container inventories, and structured observations. We developed a typology of household water access according to infrastructure conditions based on the presence of an overhead storage tank and a shared tap. For households with overhead tanks, container measurements and metered data produced statistically similar consumption volumes; for households without overhead tanks, stored volumes underestimated consumption because of significant water use directly from the tap during delivery periods. Households that shared taps consumed much less water than those that did not. We used our water use calculations to estimate waste at the household level and in the distribution system. Very few households used 135 L/person/d, the Government of India design standard for urban systems. Most wasted little water even when unmetered, however, unaccounted-for water in the neighborhood distribution systems was around 50%. Thus, conservation efforts should target loss reduction in the network rather than at households.

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