Rich Pay Less For Clean Water, Critic Says
By Sara Jerome
When it comes to paying for clean water in South Africa, the rich are not shouldering their fair share of the burden, according to an environmental group.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says the brunt of these water costs fall on the poor.
"The people who are paying too much for water are the rural poor who have to stand in a line and wait for the tanker to come and then still get charged often - whether it's officially or unofficially - for receiving drinking quality water," hydrogeologist Christine Colvin, senior manager of fresh water programs at the WWF told News24.
Non-revenue water problems are much worse in rural and less wealthy areas because infrastructure is crumbling there, according to the report. It noted that large urban metros had non-revenue losses of 34.3 percent. In contrast, small municipalities posted losses up to 72.5 percent.
Cash-strapped communities struggle to fund repairs, the article said.
"The rich are, for the volumes they're consuming, paying relatively little for very reliable drinking quality water, and meanwhile the poor are paying an inordinate cost, either in cash terms, or in labor terms or in terms of the burden of disease that they're bearing linked to that for poor amounts and poor quality water," Colvin said.
Some analysts believe water quality is significantly correlated with socioeconomic factors in the U.S., as well.
"The United States—contrary to reports of 100 percent access to safe water and sanitation in international surveys—has a complex landscape of low-income water issues," according to a study by professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Colorado. The study found that "the U.S. has significant geographic areas of low-income water service that warrant attention."
Utilities in different regions of the U.S. vary in how they approach the issue. For instance, "on average over 12,000 households are temporarily shut off each year in Denver while New York City has historically ignored delinquent accounts."
In one study, researchers focused on California. It was found to exemplify the same trend.
"We find that education, ethnic composition, age structure, land use, population density, and water area are all significantly correlated with various indicators of water quality," said a report in the journal of Environmental Economics and Policy Studies.
To read about the three biggest water challenges in the U.S., check out coverage on Water Online here.
Image credit: "Water," © 2011 Trocaire, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/