This is an archival version of the original KnowledgePoint website.

Interactive features have been disabled and some pages and links have been removed.

Visit the new KnowledgePoint website at


Studies evaluating the benefits of water at home?


I'm looking for studies comparing the benefits (health, social, environmental) of running water at home vs. water at public tap stand or equivalent vs. other sources in a non-emergency context.

With a bit of field experience, it feels obvious that water at home should bring lots of benefits, but I have a hard time proving it.

Any suggestions on where I could find such evidence (academic papers, research reports)?




Hi Laurant currently we conduct a survey of piloting of Self-supply water sources in Zambia and Zimbabwe where the family owned sources are not IN the house but on the plot. We included qualitative questions on benefits and got interesting data, e.g. that having water nearer to homes reduces time spent and burden of women for fetching water, allow having more water for personal hygiene and leading to a better food security as the situation without wells near by. In Zimbabwe in some areas the household wells at home is used for gardening which brings good cash income. The report will be available only by end of Nov bu tI am happy to exchange more if of interest. Best regards André

André Olschewski gravatar imageAndré Olschewski ( 2015-10-07 16:07:39 )

6 Answers


Two quick points: There are costs also as you need to dispose of the waste water and if you don't there can be major problems - London for instance when they piped in water and forgot the sewers. Also double check quantity vs. quantity debate - I believe the data was reanalysed and found not necessarily to support the larger quantity being the way to go rather than greater quality.


The links below should provide a good starting point. An inductive research approach is difficult to apply in this case, as there are numerous pathways for diarroheal disease transmission. It may be possible to show an association or a correlation between reduced diarroheal morbidity, but proving cause would be difficult. Studies to show association would likely require a longitudinal approach which would be expensive and difficult to implement. Hope the links below help.

John Cody gravatar imageJohn Cody ( 2015-04-01 14:30:08 )

Wow John! Thanks for these links, too much to read right away, but it looks promising!

LaurentS gravatar imageLaurentS ( 2015-04-01 14:55:59 )

Google Sandy Cairncross, he has written several strong articles. Also search for multiple indicator cluster surveys.


Super useful. The docs he refers to are a bit old, but strong indeed. Thanks!

LaurentS gravatar imageLaurentS ( 2015-03-24 10:58:40 )
Ibrahim Musah

Apart from the Multiple Indicator Class Survey, Demographic and Health Surveys can also give some snapshots of benefits of water at home. It may not be comprehensive anyway.


Any specific link for the Demographic and Health surveys data? MICS data is big, but looks quite patchy, many of the countries are missing, or old data. Thanks for mentioning it anyways, it may prove useful for specific analysis later on!

LaurentS gravatar imageLaurentS ( 2015-03-24 11:01:45 )

Recent and comprehensive assessment funded by DFID.


really good paper, ! I'll have to dig into the references as well. Thanks for pointing it out!

LaurentS gravatar imageLaurentS ( 2015-03-24 10:57:22 )

Dear Laurant,

I cannot point you to definate research on this but I remember discussing the issue during my Master's course, Possibly based on work by Feacham and Cairncross. The outcome, which is rather self evident, was that water use increases the closer it gets to the home. When the water source is far away was the household may be limited to one or two buckets a day. This will stay fairly constant until it gets to relatively close as the family will use the same sized containers. Once it within a few hundred meters the use may increase as the family (usually the women) make more trips to the water point. There is a huge jump when you get an outside water source at the house and another huge jump when you get internal plumbing. The relationship between increased water use and better health is at the same time self evident but difficult to prove as there are so many potential routes for faecal oral contamination. If I remember rightly it was said that there were better health impacts from a large quantity of reasonable quality water than from a small quantity of perfect water as it enabled more personal hygiene, washing after toilet etc.

Best regards

Martin Ager


Hello Martin, this is a great summary! The problem I'm facing is that people I talk to won't take my word for it, and want to see solid evidence backing my claims, hence my original question. Sandy Cairncross who is mentioned in the answer below claims that water at home is so effective in improving health because it increase the frequency of handwashing, and so breaks down the biggest transmission path for faeco-oral diseases. But I agree with your last statement on quantity vs quality. Best, Laurent

LaurentS gravatar imageLaurentS ( 2015-03-31 15:49:22 )

Dear Laurent,

The other issue of course is economics. While it is clearly desirable to have water in the home from the perspective of convenience as well as that of health, it is much more expensive to build and operate a system that reaches everyone, especially in rural areas where houses may be spread much further apart. This requires more pipes and, in most cases, higher pumping costs. Greater water use also brings in higher costs for waste water disposal. If water is brought in by bucket there is little waste. Piped water distribution requires at least a septic tank if not a piped sewerage system with centralised sewage treatment if there is not going to be an increased risk of disease transmission.

Best regards


Martinager gravatar imageMartinager ( 2015-03-31 16:16:15 )

You may want to do a survey / study in your area under local conditions. This could be a benefit to the existing knowledge base.

  • Water at home - immediate access anytime (theoretically)
  • Water at public fountains - time spent going to the fountain, time waiting in line for water, possible risk of harrassment of children and women who go to the well, contamination of well by careless misuse or degradation of waste water diverting infrastructure, lack of access due to frequent equipment failures, equipment failure due to misuse etc.
  • Water from the river - all of the above but much worse.