The Poor are Paying More for Water Compared to the Rich in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

The Poor in Dar es Salaam are paying 11.5x more for water than the wealthy and more than 16x compared to Australians.

Aid/Development programs are largely failing the urban poor and I am not seeing any serious inroads to address this inequality. 

One solution I am certain will reduce prices and improve quality is replicated small scale private enterprises.  There are large profit margins that currently exist - and opportunities to provide a quality product at lower prices.


In Dar es Salaam it is estimated that 80 % of people live in unplanned and un-serviced settlements (United Nations Human Settlements Programme et al., 2010).  Up to about 75% of the residents of Dar es Salaam’s informal housing settlements are unemployed or underemployed (World Bank, 2002). In a large study of informal settlements across 45 wards of Dar es Salaam it was found that 71.8% of informal residents did not have access to a safe water source and 92.4 % did not have access to improved sanitation (Penrose et al., 2010).

Temeke Case Study - by MSABI Founder Dale Young 

Last week on my way to Ifakara I accompanied a friend into the unplanned poor suburbs of Dar es Salaam in the Temeke ward.  My aim was to take a look at the water and sanitation situation.  My friend is undertaking a sanitation research study.  An unplanned suburb or informal settlement basically means no town planning - residents live with no essential services - either because they moved into the area before town planning existed, or often the case they moved into undesirable areas not suited for development - such as low lying flood plains.  Some might refer these areas as slums - but imo they are improved permanent living areas.  People are building permanent brick houses and overall the situation is not overwhelmingly unpleasant.  

I had a really fun day and discovered a friendly and vibrant community existing amongst a backdrop of poverty, limited employment opportunities and non-existent government services.
Typical urban setting in unplanned suburbs of Dar
I took the opportunity to learn some more about how people access drinking water and safe sanitation.  Generally, improved shared sanitation is available.  Pour flush pit latrines are the standard toilet system.  A single toilet is often used by multiple families.  The quality of the structure varies from a private brick room to an open squat plate.  Unfortunately, due to high water tables in flood plain areas, such pit latrines often overflow and pollute the environment.  There does seem to be a local service available for the emptying of the pits - which is not surprising, as people are very enterprising in situations where there are no conventional jobs available - and there is no spare space to dig new latrines - so they need to be emptied when full. 
An outdoor latrine with brick superstructure
There are many outdoor pit latrines.  You can see clearly the water table is right at the surface here!

 A sanitation survey undertaken in Dar es Salaam found that 93 % of pit latrines are dug to between 2.5 - 5 m (Chaggu et al., 2002). Households do have a preference to dig their pit as deep as they can afford so that it lasts longer (Biran, 2010).   The obvious problem with this is that a deep pit injects waste directly into shallow aquifers - making these shallow water sources polluted, dangerous and unsuitable for human drinking consumption.
Indoor squat plate with similar high water table problems.  Here the owners have added ash to reduce the odour.
I met and chatted to women who have created their own jobs by preparing street food, selling charcoal, hairdressing, sewing, cleaning, selling water and washing clothes.  Many of these women have had a limited primary education - however I also met some university graduates unable to obtain work.  I was surprised how much income ladies were making from selling small cakes, fried cassava and kebabs on the street.  It seems they can earn TZS8,000-10,000 ($5-6.5) per day - which is actually slightly above the average Tanzanian GDP.  It seems in such crowded environments entrepreneurship is key for survival.

This lady told me she returns TZS8,000-10,000 per day selling "Bagia" - a type of deep fried fritter
There are no piped water connections available in unplanned areas- and nor will there ever likely be due to the irregular housing/street layout, high water tables, undulating terrain - and refusal of Government to officially recognise many of these suburbs.  Drinking water is obtained from private vendors - either from a deep borehole or from water trucked in and sold from tanks.  Water is perhaps the largest cost of living for residents.  People are very selective over where they obtain water.  Generally, they will have at least 2 water sources - one for drinking and one for washing/cleaning.  Drinking water costs TZS200 per 20L bucket - which equates to TZS10,000 ($6.5) per kilolitre.  One person consumes around 1x 20L bucket of drinking water per week.  Washing water costs on average TZS50 and usually comes from shallow open wells or contaminated boreholes.  Residents complain that such water is unsuitable for drinking due to a salty taste - and no doubt very high levels of fecal contamination from all the pit latrines!  But this is the water they use to wash themselves because drinking water is simply too expensive!  Further, I was surprised to learn that uniformly all people I talked to are boiling their drinking water.  Boiling water is ridiculously expensive - a large amount of charcoal is needed to boil 20L - approximately TZS1000.  Hence, the real end cost for consumers living in poor unplanned suburbs of Dar es Salaam is TZS60 per litre - or TZS60,000 ($35) per kilolitre!!!
Water collection and storage consumes time and space.  Women and children are generally responsible for water collection and treatment.
Local residents took me to a charcoal vendor to show how much charcoal is required to boil a 20L bucket.  This half bucket costs TZS1,000.  Such a a cost is a hefty financial burden penalising the poorest people of Dar es Salaam.  Further, the environmental and health impacts of burning charcoal are widely known - but in 5 years in Tanzania I have not seen a decline in its use - only a sharp increase in price - which might be the driver for the poor themselves to find alternative fuel sources. 
Middle class and wealthy residents of Dar typically are serviced by power, water and sewer.   The cost of piped water is TZS850 per kilolitre (after a one off $120 connection fee).  The poor are paying 11.5x more for water than the wealthy!!!  This is disturbing.  After boiling the cost for collecting water in a bucket in an unplanned suburb is over 41x that of water piped to a wealthy person's kitchen sink.  However, this is not a fair comparison as Dar piped water needs additional treatment prior to drinking. 
In Australia we pay around $2.15 per kilolitre (Unity water) and a $232 connection fee per year.  We consume on average 200L/day of drinking quality water in our homes - compared to 3L/day that is budgeted for drinking by the poor in Dar.  They also have to collect their water and boil it - and it is costing them 16x more compared to us.

Simple water enterprise businesses are found through-out the poor unplanned suburbs - a type of local water kiosk.  I saw two common examples;
1) a private borehole with a pump to header tank and
2) water tanks filled from water trucks.
I met one enterprising lady "Mama Maji" (Mrs Water), who was on selling water delivered to her property by truck.  Her front yard was filled with poly water tanks.  Business seemed to be doing quite well - a steady stream of customers in the middle of the day (peak hours are morning and evening).  She estimates she sells 3,500 L/d at TZS200 per 20L bucket. (180 buckets/day).  She purchases water for TZS50,000 per 6,000L tanker or TZS85,000 per 10,000L tanker.  Firstly, the tanker is making a nice business - a margin of  1000% assuming they fill their tanker from mains water.  Mama Maji's business has a return of 17.5% (profit of TZS6,250/day).  It seems the tanker is making the majority of the profit.

"Mama Maji" hard at work serving a customer.  She charges TZS200 per bucket at a profit margin of 17.5%.  The water truck that delivers water to her has an estimated 1000% mark-up.
Private water kiosk vendor selling water from a local borehole.  The water here is considered salty and unsafe for drinking.  People were using this water for washing/cleaning and the price was TZS50 per bucket.

The following link provides an update to water pricing in Dar es Salaam.  There are government water kiosks in certain areas of the city - however we did not see any during our day trip.  Certainly we did not see any drinkable water for sale less than TZS200 per bucket - which is a stark contrast to the official government kiosk rates of TZS50/bucket. 

My trip was a short insight into the problems people have in urban Dar es Salaam and the high cost for water.  No doubt I have much more to learn in regards to this situation.  However, it is suffice to say there is a huge amount of work required to improve the disparity between rich and poor in Dar.  I see huge potential for private business enterprises to make profit and still reduce the cost of water at the same time.  The rate of population growth and community demands exceed the capacity of the government.  New innovative solutions are needed and private sector players are required to step up and realise the business potential serving the poorest!

An example in India where private sector water kiosks are making inroads to providing safe water to the poor.