Abstract

Despite the explosion of geospatial data collected on water points, there have been relatively few efforts to date to use these data to understand the correlates and potential causes of water point breakdowns. We add to this literature by coding open-ended responses around functionality status in the open-access WPDx (Water Point Data Exchange) database. We code responses into 41 different categories of functionality problems for 244,075 water points from 25 countries in Africa, Asia and Central America, though we narrow our analysis to 41,716 points in six countries. We find that descriptions of technical breakdowns or problems are most common, though concerns about water resources and water quality feature prominently. We also find that 7% of records in our analysis subset spontaneously mention concerns over vandalism or theft, something which has received relatively little attention in the sector. Information on user financial contributions is mostly omitted by uploaders to WPDx, but we find that users are not contributing at all in 40% of the 96,651 water points with these data. Our results should be interpreted cautiously considering the obvious selection and subjectivity concerns, but the analysis highlights the potential benefits of coordinating an augmented data collection standard.

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