Abstract

Bottled water serves an increasingly large percentage of urban poor populations in lower-income countries, yet receives little attention within international development research and policy. This study investigates the impact of packaged drinking water (refill water) on affordability and equity of drinking water access by the urban poor under SDG 6.1, comparing refill water cost and consumption across socioeconomic quintiles drawn from two sub-districts of Jakarta, Indonesia. Analysis of a customer survey (n = 80) and in-depth interviews with 12 small-scale refill water providers reveals the significance of water quality, convenience, and reliability of water in defining affordable water access. Lower-income households perceive refill water to be the most affordable, safe drinking water source available to them, despite representing the second highest per unit cost source. Piped water is considered more expensive despite its low per unit volume cost, because of total costs associated with guaranteeing its reliability and quality. We suggest that the combined costs of securing domestic and drinking water for poorer households need to be considered for future approaches targeting the provision of inclusive water access under SDG 6.1 in Indonesia. Packaged water needs to be taken into account in the strategies designed to increase access, and measurements of affordability and equity of access.

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