Many rural water supply projects in sub-Saharan Africa are based on the installation of public handpumps. One of the key benefits of these projects is distance and time savings. Surprisingly, references to rural water planning rarely provide systematic approaches to optimizing distance-related benefits. This paper develops a conceptual model to identify the number and location of point sources that maximizes benefits to consumers, thereby serving as an aid to decision makers in identifying good alternatives. The proposed model is based on willingness to pay, a location model to identify optimal locations of sources, and a cost–benefit analysis. The model shows that as the number of sources increases, the distance between households and sources decreases but the user fee must increase to generate the revenue required to maintain them. Higher fees will dissuade households from using the point sources and hence reduce the aggregate distance savings that accrue. This suggests that there is an optimal number and location of point sources.

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