Access to clean water in Indonesia

70% of the Indonesian population has a self-provided source of primary water; this means that there is no quality control for the kind of water that people use for their daily needs. (Source: Worldbank) People get their water through a private well, community well or from a water truck. Mostly this water is contaminated with bacteria that can cause diseases like diarrhea. The 30% that has access to the water provided by the national water supply (PAM) also has water below drinking standards due to maintenance problems and contamination with ground water. So nobody in Indonesia can drink their water from the tap and chances are very high that the primary source of water is not clear but contaminated.



Although the GDP of Indonesia is growing, Indonesia has trouble in reaching its targets for the MDGs. 63 million people (1/4 of the total population) still practice open defecation . Just 12% of people wash their hands after defecating, which means that there are harmfull bacteria everywhere (source: WHO). Although most Indonesians boil their water, studies found that 47.5% of the boiled drinking water still contained e-coli bacteria.

As a result, each year 151,000 children die due to diarrhea or other waterborne diseases. The WHO estimates that diarrhea can be reduced by 39% through household water treatment and safe storage


The costs of getting safe drinking water


In order to get safe drinking water, Indonesians are generally used to boil their water using wood or gas or buy bottled water at refill stations. Bottled water is called Isi ulang and is provided in big 19L bottles called gallons. Few data is available on the amount of people that use a certain type of purified water. Many households use multiple disinfection methods; combining boiling and buying of water. Nazava observed that ways to acquire drinking water are related to income as well as local practices. Based on our observations and the patchy information from reports, we constructed the following division of ways people get their drinking water in Indonesia:


Table 1 Estimated distributions of methods in which the Indonesian population acquire drinking water


Practice Daily income % of population Location
Boiling using wood < 2 USD 50 %* Rural
Boiling using gas >2 USD Rural and Urban
Buying refill water < 10 USD 50% Rural and Urban
Buying branded water > 10 USD Urban
Using a whole house RO machine >20 USD Urban
* no information available on % of population that uses wood or gas as primary source for drinking water


Annual Costs of getting safe drinking water based on a household of 5 people that consume 3 liters per day


In general we estimate that 50% of the Indonesians buy water, 25% use gas to boil their water and 25% use wood. Boiling water is more common in rural areas and buying water is more common in urban areas. Although bottled water is more expensive it is becoming more popular than boiling, because of the convenience of being able to drink it directly from the container3. On an annual basis Indonesian households spent between 51 to 132 USD to get safe drinking water (see Figure 1). This means that many households spend up to one monthly wage on drinking water.

Besides the high costs of boiling and buying drinking water these methods have other drawbacks as well. See Table 2 below.


Table 2. Overview of advantages and disadvantages of methods to acquire drinking water



Method Advantage Disadvantage
Boiling on wood Cheap -Availability
– Rainy season
-Time consuming to collect
– Burden on women to gather the wood
-Respiratory diseases
-CO2 emissions
-High chances of recontamination of the boiled water (Source: Sodah et al, 2011 )
-Does not reduce turbidity or reduce dissolved solids such as iron; water stays brown
Boiling on gas / kerosene No need to leave the house -Non-renewable
-Costs > 51 USD per year
-High chances of recontamination of the boiled water
-Does not reduce turbidity or reduce dissolved solids such as iron; water stays brown
Buying water No need to boil -Costs > 132 USD per year -Hassle to get
-Male dependency
-Availability in urban areas only
-No quality control
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