This paper presents an approach to improve the access of urban households to drinking water and to assure continuous distribution without reducing network management performance. It is suggested that households participate in proposing technical solutions for network expansions. The approach is structured on network designs based on relevant variables such as household intake and capacity to pay. Considering costs, this approach will mean better distribution performance at lower rates. Technical responses mainly involve the concept of flexible and appropriate standards, called reference levels. With simultaneous consideration of household effort rate and reference levels, it is possible to define, for each category of area, the appropriate service level, the appropriate type and the optimal dimensions of the distribution network. Three service levels are thus proposed, according to the available resources of households: systematic household connection; connection with a public tap; and combined connection. This approach has been tested in Cameroonian towns. The suggested method allows an improvement in performance using the classic method, by a major increase in served households: network length ratio and a global investment gain in towns under study.

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