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Access for the poor and excluded

This paper considers how tariffs and subsidies can be structured to increase access to sustainable, affordable water supplies in urban areas, especially for the world’s poorest and most marginalised people.

Access to safe water is a human need and basic right. And yet, roughly half of urban dwellers in sub-Saharan Africa and South and South-East Asia lack access to clean, safe, affordable water. The reasons are often financial, with poor people unable to afford connection fees. Meanwhile, utilities often lack the funds to invest in extending water networks into un-served areas, and incentives to do so. Legal barriers such as lack of land tenure, and physical barriers such as the difficulty of laying pipes in crowded urban slums, also stand in the way. As a result, the urban poor often pay many times more for their water from alternative providers because they are excluded from the official water network.