Reflecting SDG 6.1 in rural water supply tariffs : considering 'affordability' versus 'operations and maintenance costs' in Malawi

Truslove, Jonathan P. and Coulson, Andrea B. and Nhlema, Muthi and Mbalame, Emma and Kalin, Robert M. (2020) Reflecting SDG 6.1 in rural water supply tariffs : considering 'affordability' versus 'operations and maintenance costs' in Malawi. Sustainability, 12 (2). 744. ISSN 2071-1050 (

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Local tariffs in the form of household contributions are the primary financial mechanism to fund the maintenance of rural water supplies in Malawi. An investigation was conducted into the tariffs set by rural service providers to sustain drilled boreholes equipped with Afridev handpumps. A binary logistic regression analysis identified significant explanatory variables for the most common identified considerations when setting tariffs, ‘affordability’ and ‘operations and maintenance (O&M) costs’. The results demonstrate tariffs collected less frequently and usage above the design limit of the Afridev (300 users) had lower odds of considering affordability and higher odds of considering O&M costs, than those collected per month and within the design limit. The results further suggest a recognition by service providers of an increased maintenance challenge. High usage, acquiring spare parts, and the collection of tariffs when repairs are required indicate an increased likelihood of considering O&M costs, conversely to considering affordability. The balance of affordability and sustainable maintenance is a perpetual challenge under decentralised service delivery. Investment into ongoing support and supply chains is required for the financial and operational requirements of water supply, to ensure payments for services does not prevent access to clean water at the local level and to achieve the 2030 agenda.