1In Morocco’s towns and cities, authorities rely on utility operators (public or private) to implement their policy of access to fresh water and sanitation. The operators centralize demand, deliver water to the population in their delegated areas and are thus responsible for the sustainable management and equitable distribution of the resource. The latter is only possible, however, if the same principles apply to the entire population in the area: therefore, one of the primary goals is to extend public service as widely as possible across the operator’s area. One of the crucial targets listed in the delegated management contracts, signed in Morocco in 1997, is to extend individual connection to 100% of the urban households. Significant resources have therefore been deployed in recent years to extend provision of fresh water to peri-urban areas. However, extending the networks continues to face numerous obstacles, including the nature and geography of certain districts as well financial barriers found in the heavy investment requirement. As a result, entire districts still do not benefit from individual connections to fresh water and sanitation networks. In Rabat and its surroundings this encompasses 9% of the population, 11% in Tangier and 10% in Tetouan.
2Local authorities have conceived a number of solutions to supply those without access to utilities including the Installation of free open access tapstands. However, such installations quickly revealed their limitations; thus the operators and the municipalities are eager to develop ways to provide better suited services which sustain the public needs, minimize wastage, and ensure equitable distribution of the resource, while guaranteeing healthy and affordable sources of supply to the poorest households.
- 1 “My fountain” in Arabic.
3This paper aims to describe the latest progress and obstacles faced while extending water and sanitation access in Morocco, define theoretical principles that should apply to alternative provision systems, present an innovative new mode of collective distribution through saqayti1 a managed, regulated tapstand delivering prepaid volumes of water, and finally analyze the initial feedback on the new system.
4Over past 10 years, Moroccans’ access to drinking water and sanitation services has seen important improvements. However, significant efforts are still required, mainly in underprivileged urban and surrounding areas and particularly in informal settlements that have grown up spontaneously as a result of rural exodus. In May 2005, King Mohammed VI launched a National Initiative for Human Development (NIHD), with the aim of fighting poverty and helping to improve quality of life for all. Local government agencies, their supervisory ministries, and the utility operators responded by joining forces to pilot innovative approaches, linking development of water and sanitation services with rehabilitation and restructuring of the building environment in the poorer districts.
5It is with this aim in mind that three agreements for connecting almost 100,000 deprived households (approximately 500 000 to 600 000 inhabitants) from the outskirts of Rabat, Tangier and Tetouan to the water and sanitation networks were signed in 2005 and 2006. This public private partnership aims to combine the shared determination of the operators, the government and the communities themselves, to do what is required to quicken the pace of the development of fresh water and sanitation provisions, notably by allocating ad-hoc funding, by adjusting the contribution expected from beneficiary families to socially affordable levels, and by simplify the associated paperwork. In effect, the targets defined in the agreements amounted to accelerating, into a space of five years, almost all of the subsidized connections provided for in existing contracts for all three areas over 25 years.
- 2 1 Moroccan dirham (MAD) = US$ 0.1254 (USD) as of 28 March 2011 (Source Bank Al Maghrib).
6A strong commitment from all parties involved is necessary to meet such objectives, however, commitment is not sufficient in and of itself as there are many obstacles which must be overcome. First of all, the massive cost of the infrastructures required to meet the connection targets set for Rabat, Tangier and Tetouan amounts to more than 2 billion Moroccan dirhams2. As the most deprived households are often the furthest from the network; and the further a district from the main network, the higher the connection cost, this calls for innovative and inventive financial engineering. Indeed connection costs include not only the cost of the connection itself but also the costs associated to extending the water distribution and the waste water collection networks on-site, structural work to create the water transportation networks off-site, and a share of the cost of the infrastructure, such as pumping stations, reservoirs and decontamination plants. As well as the impact on the total financing needs for the project, this wide variety of costs leads to significant variability in the connection cost between different geographical areas including districts of the same town, or towns in the same region.
7Moreover, many of the poorest outlying areas targeted by the extension program are not the product of urban planning. They are often located in zones with no utility networks, sometimes on sloping or very difficult terrain, and in areas that were not given prior authorization for building. Connecting them to the networks therefore requires an explicit political will to develop and legitimize these districts, adding again to the connection costs. The operators who seek to connect these households are also faced with land ownership issues, especially in the context of widespread property speculation in many of Morocco’s cities. These disputes over land ownership and legitimacy of the settlements can considerably increases connection times.
8Finally given the cost of the related investments, the water supply networks must be designed to last, therefore connection is only possible for the less precarious dwellings. As such it is not feasible to invest in connecting settlements which are destined to disappear in the short to medium term due to the impermanence of many of the structures of the poorest inhabitants (slums or precarious dwellings).
9The mechanisms put in place by the authorities and the operators within the framework of the NIHD agreements have addressed some of these issues by proposing innovative financing solutions, by determining and authorizing the supply of a series of priority districts, by facilitating collaboration between the main actors of urban development, and by streamlining the associated administrative procedures. However, it remains necessary to define an alternative, if temporary, drinking water supply solution, due to the conjunction of several remaining obstacles:
Unsolved land ownership issues;
Difficulties in coordinating the numerous development agencies and partners;
The presence in some districts of dwellings too unstable for a lasting connection;
Households with insufficient financial resources, despite the efforts made to reduce the connection fee;
Complex legal or family situations with the occupants of certain dwellings;
Absence of development plans;
And, simply, the fact that the program is spread over a long timeframe.
10To date, these households that are being temporarily excluded from the connection programs for the above reasons generally have access to water through open access communal tapstands. The water at these tapstands is delivered free of charge, with no restrictions on access or on volume. The associated consumption is invoiced to the municipalities who consequently subsidize it as a grant.
11However, even though this means provides a temporary solution, it also poses a number of problems. First and foremost, unregulated access to unlimited volumes attracts “freeloaders”, such as entrepreneurs and ordinary consumers who have their own individual connections, who extract water often for non-domestic purposes. They monopolize access to the CT sometimes for hours on end, night and day, lengthening the chore of water-fetching for households, who are then forced to obtain water from alternative sources of uncertain quality, including wells and water-sellers, or from more distant CTs. These freeloaders aggravate the problem of over-consumption inherent in unrestrained and unlimited access.
12In addition, the open access CTs are often poorly maintained, leaking or vandalized, resulting in significant water losses, contrary to the goal of preserving collective resources and the environment. The lack of any means of control over CT consumption also results in large bills for the municipalities, often incommensurate with their budget provisions. This has a significant impact on cost recovery for the operators: high financial charges, additional to the costs of the service are generated by long overdue invoices, as a result of municipalities significant and recurrent budget overflows, jeopardizing the sustainability of the utility and, thereby, the fair and equitable sharing of water resources.
- 3 In Morocco, Veolia Environnement has been a delegated provider of water, sanitation and electricit (...)
13The use of free tapstands, generally a temporary and partial solution to supply water to the poorest households, poses problems for rational and sustainable management and for equitable sharing of water resources. For this reason, Veolia Environnement Morocco3 conducted studies to define a solution to provide guaranteed exclusive access for the poorest households, while minimizing waste and over-consumption, and which can complement the subsidized individual connections while reducing the associated unaccounted for water cost to municipalities.
14In the case of tapstands, as happens all too often, experiments with free supply lead to a lack of sufficient equipment, gradual deterioration of the service, inadequate maintenance, and over-consumption, and thus to increased stress on the resource and on the environment. One possible solution seems to be to charge customers – even the very poorest – for at least part of the cost of the service, within the bounds of social affordability.
15According to Whittington (2006), the pricing of drinking water should strike a balance between the four following objectives:
Acceptable cost recovery: on aggregate, tariffs faced by consumers should produce revenue at least equal to the financial costs of supply, without causing cash flow or financing difficulties for the utility. Supplying water via free tapstands puts intolerable stress on the balance of pricing policy. Abuse, notably by “freeloaders”, disturbs the equilibrium between the revenue stream and the costs associated with providing the public service. Furthermore public authorities being unable to budget their expenses, invoice payments occur regularly with a significant delay and thus generate additional financial costs to the service. The new pricing system should therefore aim to redress the balance of pricing policy.
Economic efficiency: Prices should be set in such a way as to signal to consumers the financial, environmental, and other costs that their decisions to use water impose on the rest of the system and on the economy. In practice, in standard pricing systems, this means making the volumetric charge equal to the marginal cost of: a) bringing one additional cubic meter of water into a city, and delivering it to a particular customer; b) the stress that the cubic meter places on the environment (the scarcity price of the resource, including the opportunity costs associated with using it for public needs, and the estimated environmental cost of discharging the used water into the natural environment and, where applicable, the cost of collecting and treating waste water). In the case of a tapstand, consumers need to be made aware – by means of a pricing or alert mechanism which remains to be defined – of the cost of their decision to open a tap for the system as a whole. The alert could be financial in nature, consisting in the introduction of a charge, but it could also consist in creating a sense of scarcity, to instill value into the water distributed.
Equity: Pricing should be identical for similar consumers, and different for dissimilar consumers. This usually means that users pay monthly water bills that are proportionate to the costs they impose on the utility by their water use. Under this principle, it would be legitimate for users of temporary, non-individual drinking water solutions to benefit from special pricing.
Affordability: Tariffs should guarantee access to water for the poor, regardless of their income level, at least to the extent of covering their basic needs. These considerations have led to recommendations that tariffs be kept low, at least for the poor.
16However, establishing a pricing policy for the supply of drinking water to the poorest sections of society is often a sensitive issue. The switch from an abundant free supply to a regulated paying supply, while offering a solution to several of the problems encountered with tapstands, must be introduced progressively and in accordance with the needs and expectations of the target populations. The specific pricing system is the subject of heated debate in civil society, and of recommendations by the international community (United Nations Development Program, 2006; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2008). There is some degree of consensus, however, on very low prices, and on free supply of drinking water for the poorest, at least to cover their basic needs. On the principle that all citizens must have access to sufficient resources to meet their basic needs and to live with dignity, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNPD) recommend a free allocation of 20 liters of water per person per day (Joint Monitoring Program State, WHO 2011, UNDP 2006). In Morocco, this allocation would amount, for the urban and surrounding areas of the largest cities, to about 3 cubic meters a month (assuming an average of five persons per household). The UNPD also suggests that expenditure on drinking water for basic needs should not exceed 3% of a household’s income (UNDP 2006). For the greater Tangier conurbation, a 2003 socio-economic study (Roger, 2003) assessed the average income of the poorest households at about 1,900 MAD a month, just over 5 USD per person per day. Their expenditure on basic requirements should therefore not exceed 50-60 MAD per month.
17It is on the basis of these recommendations that the saqayti tapstand was developed. The key-operated saqayti (Figures 1 and 2) is made exclusively available to a target population, considered by the authorities as the most deprived. To obtain water, the users must introduce a key containing a smart card, which is credited in advance with a prepaid volume of water (allowance being invoiced to the local authorities). Each extraction volume is recorded on the chip and each time the tapstand is used, the volume remaining in credit is displayed on a built-in digital screen. If the prepaid total is consumed in full, the beneficiary must go to a branch office and top up the key.
Figure 1. A saqaytitapstand inTangier
Figure 2. Saqayti tapstands in Tangier: water distribution is activated by a smart card
- 4 In Morocco, Water is produced by the national producer, the Office National de l’Eau Potable (ONEP (...)
18To date, 19 such tapstands have been installed in Morocco in the municipalities of Skhirat, Temara, Sale, Tangier and Martil. Prior to their installation, each municipality identifies and lists the deprived households that can not have access to an individual connection for financial, structural or other reasons (indivisibility of property, lack of approval from the landlord etc.) and who need access to the installation. This identification is based on both economic status and on an individual case analysis, at the discretion of the municipalities who remain the ultimate decision makers about who benefits from the grant. Each of these households (752 as of April 2011) is then given a key with which to operate the tapstand. This amounts to an average of 40 households per tapstand, depending on the type of tapstand and the neighborhood. Keys are currently credited every month with a volume of 4 to 6 m3 (about 30 to 40 l/person/day), prepaid by the municipalities, allowing the beneficiaries to meet their basic needs free of charge. To avoid resorting to unsafe sources, once the allocated credit is completely consumed by the household, the key can be topped up by its beneficiary at any commercial agency including mobile units set up to offer commercial services within areas where regular agencies are lacking. The price of the additional credits is in accor with the regular tariff which also includes a subsidized “social trench”. Under the subsidy up to 6m3 water is sold by the operator at a price that is inferior to the price of the water produced4 (it therefore does not include conveyance or operating costs).
19In this form, the saqayti complies with the four principles:
Acceptable cost recovery: While proposing a pricing solution tailored to the poorest, this system enables municipalities to rationalize spending on drinking water. Indeed, the pricing policy is balanced by limiting the free monthly allowance to a predefined volume and a restricted list of beneficiaries. Tapstand expenditure, which no longer exceeds the freely allocated unit volume multiplied by the number of beneficiaries, is therefore predictable and the authorities can now budget accurately their associated expenses and plan on time payments of the associated invoices to the operator;
Economic efficiency: Allocating a fixed maximum volume of free water, and enabling the beneficiaries to monitor the amount remaining, gives people a sense of the scarcity of the resource. This, combined with the transition to normal pricing beyond the 4 to 6 m3 allowance, helps to give value to drinking water and to make the beneficiaries aware of the costs involved;
Equity: This solution is aimed at the poorest population households, who cannot be supplied individually in the short term and who consume less than 4 to 6 m3 of drinking water a month. It is therefore a socially equitable tariff designed specifically for particular consumers who cannot be supplied by the standard system;
Affordability:The supply of the beneficiaries’ basic needs (an average of 30 to 40 l/person/day, compared with the UNPD recommendation of 20 l) is affordable, being free of charge. Furthermore, additional volumes are sold at a price that is inferior to the price of the water produced.
20Freeloading meanwhile, is prevented, which helps to reduce waiting times, and consequently the length of the water-fetching chore. Increasing the disposable time of the beneficiary households for other activities, it also improves their quality of life. Additionally, it helps to target municipal aid by providing a free service for those who really need it, enabling the resulting budget savings to be allocated elsewhere. Abusive consumption is avoided, and as the valve shuts off automatically when the key is taken out, wastage at the tap is avoided.
21Saqayti seems therefore to be a practically appropriate solution for the collective and temporary supply of drinking water to populations that cannot benefit from individual connections. By progressively giving value to drinking water through scarcity, and by making it necessary for households to monitor their consumption, the system also paves the way for a gradual transition to individual supply. Finally, this approach reduces the stress on the resource from over-consumption and wastage, and thus preserves the environment as part of the threefold goal of economic, social and environmental progress.
- 5 The standpipes installed inTangier and Tetouan are too recent as yet for a meaningful analysis of (...)
22The first saqayti was installed in Temara in November 2006 and as of March 2011, 19 have been installed around Rabat, Salé, Tangier and Tetouan. In the summer of 2008, a survey was conducted on 67% of the beneficiary households. This survey confirmed, first of all, the extreme dependency of these households on the tapstand, which constitutes the sole source of water for 96% of them. And yet consumption rates for the saqayti are on average a quarter of the conventional CTs they replaced. The average monthly consumption for the three CTs replaced in Veolia Environnement Morocco’s area in Rabat fell from 1125 m3/month to 294 m3/month5 (Figure 3). Consumption at some saqayti was even found to have fallen down to 20%, or in rare cases as low as 2%, of the consumption of previous conventional tapstands. This represents both significant reduction in the extraction of the resource, and concrete substantial savings for the municipalities which subsidize its consumption.
Figure 3. Comparative consumption rates: 3 conventional CTs vs. the Saqayti that replaced them around Rabat
23Thus far one third (33%) of the beneficiaries regularly use up their entire allocation over a month, and between the installation of the first saqayti in 2006 and March 2011 only 36 keys had to be topped up before the end of the month– solidarity between neighbors currently comes into play when someone runs out of credit. Moreover, 77% of the beneficiary households declare themselves satisfied with the freely allocated volume. 6 m3 seems therefore to be adequate for these households, and the number of households using up their allocation could probably be reduced by educating beneficiaries about the optimal use of the volume allocated to them.
24The beneficiaries state that the duration of the water chore has been substantially reduced: 50% declared waiting for less than 5 minutes, compared with 17% before the saqayti was installed. Additionally, the targeting of the beneficiaries has tended to optimize the location of the tapstand, bringing it closer to the beneficiary households. This represents significant improvement for the beneficiary households in terms of time saved and quality of the water consumed. Indeed, as the distance to the source has decreased and the methods of carrying the water are improved, more water is used for other purposes than drinking including cleaning and hygiene. Additionally, the ease of access leads to beneficiaries renewing their supply more frequently. The reduced storage periods of the water subsequently increase the quality of the water consumed.
25The introduction of a specific pricing policy for the users of these CTs was designed to pave the way for a transition to individualized drinking water supply management. In this respect, one of the primary aims was to give beneficiaries a sense of responsibility for the value of water. This objective has been met, as 72% of users claim to monitor their consumption of potable water closely. This represents a major change in the behavior of these households, as such monitoring was impossible when the water was delivered through conventional tapstands. Moreover, 56% of the households say that they now pay attention to the notion of water wastage, and 17% use some of their leftover water for non-food purposes, instead of throwing it away as before.
26By mitigating the more negative aspects of non-individual drinking water supply, this mechanism helps to significantly improve people’s quality of life. This is reflected in the high overall satisfaction level, with almost all of the households declaring they are satisfied with the installation. The level of satisfaction is not, however, total (only 24% describe themselves as “very satisfied”). Some of the disadvantages of collective supply still persist, and many users therefore aspire, eventually, to an individual connection (in accordance with Devoto, Duflo 2011). While the location of the new installations has been optimized, fetching water remains a tiresome chore, due to the geography of the areas (scattered dwellings, on sometimes very difficult and uneven terrain), and for some the CT is still a long distance away with more than 32% of households living more than 200 m from the installation.
27Meanwhile, unexpected problems, tied in with the new practices induced by the installation, have gradually emerged. First, some households – those closest to the installation – now take water from the CT by means of hosepipes directly attached to one of the taps and leading to their house. An unspoken agreement between beneficiaries prohibits anyone from monopolizing both taps in this way, but even this is not always respected. The non-hosepipe owners complain of having to wait longer than with their previous source of supply, as the hosepipe, being shared between several households, can be connected for hours at a time. 15% of these users, non-hosepipe owning, claim that they wait on average for more than an hour at the CT. This divergence, and the sense of injustice of those without hosepipes, sometimes gives rise to tensions. A specifically adapted tap which will make hosepipe connections impossible is currently being considered as a solution to this problem.
28Additionally, if water is stored for too long, it cannot be guaranteed to be drinkable. While using hosepipes enables large volumes to be drawn off and stored at a time (46% say that they take more than 150 liters per visit), thus reducing the frequency of operations, it also leads to longer storage times. 24% of households now store their drinking water for more than three days, compared to only 8% previously. In this case, the practical improvement in the mode of water delivery could, perversely, contribute to deterioration in the quality of the water actually consumed by the beneficiaries. Awareness-raising actions are planned, to sensitize people about correct water usage, and the links between water, hygiene and health. The survey revealed that the beneficiaries would be receptive to practical information about good water usage, and notably how to make best use of their allotted 6 m3. Following this implementation phase, Veolia Environnement Morocco also plans to accompany the installation of saqayti with an awareness campaign on optimal use of the water allowance and good water usage in general. This should attenuate the unwanted side effects of the program, and turn them into an opportunity to make a significant improvement in the hygiene conditions of the beneficiaries.
29These aspects, which cast a slight shadow over the success of the new installation currently in development, seem to be mainly due to its hybrid nature. For, although it is collective tapstand, it is designed to initiate a transition towards individualized water management. Now that everyone is responsible for their own consumption, a beneficiary “delegate” could be appointed to report problems, suggestions or misuse of the collective installation to the operator and be the referent in transmitting some best practice about good water usage. For this reason a participatory method of management for these CTs is currently being developed. The appointment of a person to act as the primary point of contact not only for the beneficiaries, but also for the operators and municipalities, channeling issues around misuse, maintenance, key top-ups, etc. could be an effective way of addressing these problems.
30Saqayti has been highly successful in the municipalities in which it has been installed, and the authorities have repeatedly shown their interest in replacing their whole fleet of conventional tap stands. However, to date only 19 saqayti have been installed in Morocco out of more than 800 conventional tap stands currently in use in the sole cities of Rabat, Tangier and Tetouan. There still remain key barriers to greater adoption of the system such as land and political issues: installing saqayti indeed means shrinking the number of authorized users of subsidized water which is a source of dissatisfaction for the households that have not been chosen as beneficiaries.
31Free unregulated tapstands are the means generally used to supply drinking water to many of the poorest urban households unable to benefit from an individual connection to the public network. This stems from structural reasons such as unstable dwellings or districts, lack of development plans, land ownership issues, rough terrain or financial reasons like the connection fee. However these free tapstands have significant environmental, social and economic drawbacks. In addition to over-consumption, which makes unreasonable demands on the resource and on the aid dispensed by municipalities, the mode of distribution itself can be unsuitable for the people it is designed to help. From this observation comes saqayti, a solution in keeping with the recommendations of international bodies and certain members of civil society on the pricing of services to meet the basic needs of the poorest. This innovative mechanism maintains free access to drinking water for the most exposed populations (in sufficient quantity to cover their basic needs), and even improves the conditions of supply and eases some of the pressure on water resources. In addition, it also enables more balanced public service delivery: reducing municipal expenditures and making them predictable, it prevents municipalities from budget overflows. Eventually, reduced incomes associated to a decrease in the volumes of water invoiced by the operator are compensated by a significant drop of the financial costs generated by long overdue accounts. As a result, revenues streams are smoothed in a win-win scenario.
32By reducing consumption and in ensuring better targeting of aid for drinking water supplies to the poorest, the saqayti system contributes to rational and sustainable management and to equitable distribution of the resource.
33Early feedback shows that most of the system’s initial objectives have been met: (i) consumption rates have been reduced by almost 75% on average; (ii) free supply is guaranteed for the poorest; (iii) the conditions of supply, (notably waiting times and the chore of fetching water), have been improved; and (iv) consumers are gradually acquiring habits associated with individual supply including a sense of responsibility, an awareness of the value of water, and sensitivity to wastage.
34As with any new and developing system, further adjustments are required to sustain its success in the long term, such as developing means to avoid the use of hosepipes which are a source of tension, carrying out awareness campaigns on water use and its link to health, appointing a “referent beneficiary” to ensure pertinent feedback on the installation (maintenance needs, social issues generated by or around the installation, technical problems) and make durable the aforementioned campaigns.
35Yet saqayti has already shown itself to be an innovative complement to the subsidized individual connections offering universal access to a complete range of solutions that comply with international standards of service quality, and that fulfill the threefold ambition of economic, social and environmental progress. Its current success is such that municipalities including Rabat, Sale, Tangier and Tetouan have shown their interest in replacing their entire fleet of conventional tapstands by saqaytis.
36The authors are pleased to acknowledge the assistance of Sharla Halvorson (HEC Paris) during revisions of this manuscript.