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  1. Most urban residents in high-income countries obtain piped and treated water for drinking and domestic use from centralized utility-run water systems. In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), however, utilities work alongside myriad other service providers that deliver water to hundreds of millions of city-dwellers. Hybrid modes of water delivery in urban areas in low- and middle-income countries are systems in which a variety of state and nonstate actors contribute to the delivery of water to households, schools, healthcare facilities, businesses, and government offices. Historically, the field has evolved to include within-utility networks and outside-the-utility provision mechanisms. Utilities service the urban core through network connections, while nonstate, smaller-scale providers supplement utility services both inside and outside the piped network. The main reform waves since the 1990s—privatization and corporatization—have done little to alter the hybrid nature of provision. Numerous case studies of nonutility water providers suggest that they are imperfect substitutes for utilities. They reach millions of households with no access to piped water, but the water they deliver tends to be of uncertain quality and is typically far more expensive than utility water. Newer work on utility-provided water and utility reforms has highlighted the political challenges of private sector participation inmore »urban water; debates have also focused on the importance of contractual details such as tariff structures and investor incentives. New research has produced numerous studies on LMICs on the ways in which utilities extend their service areas and service types through explicit and implicit relationships with front-line water workers and with supplemental nonstate water suppliers. From the nonutility perspective, debates animated by questions of price and quality, the desirability or possibility of regulation, and the compatibility (or lack thereof) between reliance on small-scale water providers and the human right to safe water, are key areas of research. While understanding the hybrid nature of water delivery is essential for responsible policy formulation and for understanding inequalities in the urban sphere, there is no substitute for the convenience and affordability of universal utility provision, and no question that research on the conditions under which particular types of reforms can improve utility provision is sorely needed.« less
  2. Thet Wai, Khin (Ed.)
    Water affordability is central to water access but remains a challenge to measure. California enshrined the human right to safe and affordable water in 2012 but the question remains: how should water affordability be measured across the state? This paper contributes to this question in three steps. First, we identify key dimensions of water affordability measures (including scale, volume of water needed to meet ‘basic’ needs, and affordability criteria) and a cross-cutting theme (social equity). Second, using these dimensions, we develop three affordability ratios measured at the water system scale for households with median, poverty level, and deep poverty (i.e., half the poverty level) incomes and estimate the corresponding percentage of households at these income levels. Using multiple measures conveys a fuller picture of affordability given the known limitations of specific affordability measures. Third, we analyze our results disaggregated by a key characteristic of water system vulnerability–water system size. We find that water is relatively affordable for median income households. However, we identify high unaffordability for households in poverty in a large fraction of water systems. We identify several scenarios with different policy implications for the human right to water, such as very small systems with high water bills andmore »low-income households within large water systems. We also characterize how data gaps complicate theoretical ideals and present barriers in human right to water monitoring efforts. This paper presents a systematic approach to measuring affordability and represents the first statewide assessment of water affordability within California’s community water systems.« less
  3. Abstract Safely managed waste reuse may be a sustainable way to protect human health and livelihoods in agrarian-based countries without adequate sewerage. The safe recovery and reuse of fecal sludge-derived fertilizer (FSF) has become an important policy discussion in low-income economies as a way to manage urban sanitation to benefit peri-urban agriculture. But what drives the user acceptance of composted fecal sludge? We develop a preference-ranking model to understand the attributes of FSF that contribute to its acceptance in Karnataka, India. We use this traditionally economic modeling method to uncover cultural practices and power disparities underlying the waste economy. We model farmowners and farmworkers separately, as the choice to use FSF as an employer versus as an employee is fundamentally different. We find that farmers who are willing to use FSF prefer to conceal its origins from their workers and from their own caste group. This is particularly the case for caste-adhering, vegetarian farmowners. We find that workers are open to using FSF if its attributes resemble cow manure, which they are comfortable handling. The waste economy in rural India remains shaped by caste hierarchies and practices, but these remain unacknowledged in policies promoting sustainable ‘business’ models for safe reuse.more »Current efforts under consideration toward formalizing the reuse sector should explicitly acknowledge caste practices in the waste economy, or they may perpetuate the size and scope of the caste-based informal sector.« less
  4. Capsule Summary Understanding how science is co-produced is a science unto itself. Using the case of Project Hyperion, we illustrate how co-production works (or does not work) in practice.
  5. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, India’s flagship sanitation intervention, set out to end open defecation by October 2019. While the program improved toilet coverage nationally, large regional disparities in construction and use remain. Our study used ethnographic methods to explore perspectives on open defecation and latrine use, and the socio-economic and political reasons for these perspectives, in rural Bihar. We draw on insights from social epidemiology and political ecology to explore the structural determinants of latrine ownership and use. Though researchers have often pointed to rural residents’ preference for open defecation, we found that people were aware of its many risks. We also found that (i) while sanitation research and “behavior change” campaigns often conflate the reluctance to adopt latrines with a preference for open defecation, this is an erroneous conflation; (ii) a subsidy can help (some) households to construct latrines but the amount of the subsidy and the manner of its disbursement are key to its usefulness; and (iii) widespread resentment towards what many rural residents view as a development bias against rural areas reinforces distrust towards the government overall and its Swachh Bharat Abhiyan-funded latrines in particular. These social-structural explanations for the slow uptake of sanitation in rural Bihar (andmore »potentially elsewhere) deserve more attention in sanitation research and promotion efforts.« less