Understanding domestic water consumption, management, and its socioeconomic implications in informal urban settlements

Mayank Prakash, of the International Institute for Population Sciences, India, investigated water quality and management in the slums of Mumbai to help policymakers develop improved water delivery services.

Mayank Prakash

Mayank Prakash


Water availability and access, water quality and associated health implications have emerged as a key concern for urban planners [1]. As much as 30% of slum dwellers in India lack tap water access and have to rely on various other unimproved water sources increasing the risk of infectious diseases [2]. This study aims to (i) assess water quantity and quality at the household level; (ii) examine domestic water management practices and (iii) investigate the socioeconomic implications of domestic water consumption in informal urban settlements. An improved understanding of these topics is urgently needed to help policymakers develop improved water delivery services and plan effective target interventions for minimizing the water related disease burden in slums [3].


This study was conducted in Mumbai city, in an area where 65% of population lives in slums. Following a systematic random sampling technique a total of 600 households were selected from 8 slum settlements. We adopted a mixed method approach including quantitative information collected through semi-structured interviews and qualitative information obtained by in-depth interviews. Household water quantity was assessed by summing up the volume of containers households used to store water on a normal day. Water quality was assessed by organoleptic properties including taste, color, and odor, which formed the basis for developing a composite water quality index by season. We also constructed a water management index using principal component analysis based on 13 variables related to household water storage, water container characteristics, water collection, and treatment. Cross tabulation, ordinary least square, and generalized ordered logit regression techniques were used for analysis.


The findings demonstrate that more than a quarter of slum households have no access to piped water, relying on unimproved sources. In contrast to current claims of the municipal corporations of 100 litres mean daily per capita water consumption, our results indicate 70 litres. The majority of households received 200-400 litres of water per day with substantial differentials among the slums. Around 20% of the households reported poor water quality. Findings also reveal poor water management practices with only one third of households following recommended standards of water management. Using regression analysis we identify water supply-side factors such as source of water, tap pressure, distance, duration of water supply as major determinants of household water consumption and management practices. The results also highlight a greater social and economic burden related to water consumption in households in non-notified slums.


Despite the Millennium Development Goals target date of 2015, access to safe drinking water has not been achieved in urban slums in Mumbai. We call for effective and equitable tap water supply with improved quality as per recommended standards. Water management education and promotion of rain water harvesting systems among slum households, combating water scarcity, should also be a priority.


[1] Satapathy B K (2014) “Safe Drinking Water in Slums: From Water Coverage to Water Quality”, Economic and Political Weekly, 49 (24): 50-55.

[2] Census of India 2011 (2012): House Listing and Housing Census, Government of India.

[3] Jain M, Lim Y, Arce-Nazario J A, Uriarte M (2014) Perceptional and Socio-Demographic Factors Associated with Household Drinking Water Management Strategies in Rural Puerto Rico. PLoS ONE, 9 (2).


Thokozani Kanyerere, Water Program, University of the Western Cape, South Africa David Wiberg, Water Program, IIASA

Sylvia Tramberend, Water Program, IIASA


Mayank Prakash, of the International Institute for Population Sciences, India, is a citizen of India and was funded by the IIASA Indian National Member Organization during the SA-YSSP.

Please note these Proceedings have received limited or no review from supervisors and IIASA program directors, and the views and results expressed therein do not necessarily represent IIASA, its National Member Organizations, or other organizations supporting the work.   

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Last edited: 02 February 2016

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