Data from a highland to lowland transect in the Oromia Region of eastern Ethiopia show that household water use is minimal, regardless of presence of improved sources, and variations in use are driven by interactions of poverty and rainfall variability. In the dry season, when many sources fail, use for hygiene drops perilously, particularly among poor households, as collection times rise and coincide with high demands for wage labour. Providing sufficient water for livestock is also a struggle for poor agropastoral households. Poorer households use less water because they have less labour for water collection and fewer storage and transport assets. Labour shortages also make nearer, unsafe sources preferable to more distant protected schemes. The health and livelihood benefits of improved water access depend on continuous use of sufficient safe water, by all, but we have limited knowledge of actual water use patterns. This paper aims to help address this gap, and documents intra-community inequities and seasonal variations in water access. These are not captured in coverage statistics, but are likely to occur wherever pronounced climate variability, inadequate infrastructure and severe poverty coincide.
Josephine Tucker, Alan MacDonald, Lorraine Coulter, Roger Calow