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From intermittent to continuous service: Costs, benefits, equity and sustainability of water system reforms in Hubli-Dharwad, India


Urban service provision falls somewhere on the continuum of lower-cost, lower-quality, unreliable and intermittent to higher-cost, higher-quality, reliable and continuous. Piped water services in India are generally in the former category, but efforts are underway in some cities to shift to continuous supply. We use a matched-cohort research design to evaluate one such effort: an upgrade to continuous water service in a pilot zone of Hubli-Dharwad, India, while the rest of the city remained on intermittent services. We conducted a survey of ∼4000 households with four rounds of data collection over 15 months. We evaluated the household-level net benefits, the equity of their distribution, and the affordability of water access under continuous supply. We also evaluated the project at the system-level (household and utility), estimating the net present value of the upgrade and the feasibility of scale-up to the entire city. We found positive net benefits for households overall, but uneven distribution of these benefits across socio-economic strata. We also found that the costs of supply augmentation, a necessary step for scale-up, significantly reduced the project net present value. The potential for scale-up is thus unclear.

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