This article presents the results of a study of water service performance in four small towns in the Sahel Region in Burkina Faso. It shows that water supplied via small piped water systems to tap stands is cheaper per user than water supplied via hand pumps as well as providing better quality service. The comparison of life-cycle costs highlights that the cost of supporting the organisation and management of hand pump services disqualifies this type of access on an economic level. Furthermore, comparison of the levels of service actually delivered to the people shows that piped water systems meet the demand and can have a positive impact on development, whereas hand pumps are part of a survival-oriented approach that is dependent on international assistance.

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