Empirical insights were made into the challenges of supplying water to communities within low-income areas of peri-urban Blantyre, Malawi. A networked public water supply is provided to those without a domestic tap via communal water kiosks managed by community-based Water User Associations (WUAs) under a government mandate. There has been considerable debate surrounding the tariff charged for water supplied to such vulnerable communities. However, research has largely failed to consider the costs of WUAs operating the kiosks and the impact on the kiosk tariff. The determination of kiosk tariffs is critical to ensuring lifeline access to a sustainable water supply under Sustainable Development Goal 6. We provide evidence of this from our experience in the field in Blantyre. In particular, we argue that sustainable kiosk running costs cannot be born solely by the end user. A number of reforms are needed to help reduce the kiosk tariff. To reduce WUA costs and the kiosk tariffs, WUAs need more training in financial record keeping and cost management, WUAs should not inherit outstanding kiosk debt upon taking over their operations, and water boards should build kiosk costs over which they have fiscal responsibility into integrated block tariff calculations and subsidize them accordingly.
- water supply
- Water Users Associations (WUAs)
- service delivery
- Sustainable Development Goal 6