Friday, August 26, 2011

Water kiosk cartel in Mombasa

The Nairobi Star reports the discovery of a water kiosk cartel in the coast region of Kenya that has been colluding to drive up the price of water supplied through those point sources. From the April 28, 2011 issue, reporter Brian Otieno writes that

"Coast Water Services Board has unearthed a cartel involving some water kiosk owners in Mikindani, Mombasa who conspire to create an artificial shortage in the area.

"The water board boss Andy Tolla said some of the water kiosk owners have been filling their huge underground water tanks and wait untill the pipes run dry before selling the water for as much as Sh7 per 20-litre jerrican."

Ksh 7/20 liters is equivalent to US$3.73 per cubic meter--about 2.7 times what my family pays per unit volume for in-home water supply services. The successful rent-seeking by kiosk operators thus illustrates the claim that researchers have been making for some time: Even urban poor families are willing to pay considerable amounts of money for water supply services. (This is not to be confused with the normative question of whether charging such high prices is an acceptable thing to do, which is a separate issue.)

But the curious thing here is the proposed solution:

"Tolla however said measures have been put in place to break up the cartel. He said new regulations that are being implemented will effectively stop the practice.

In the new policies, water companies like the Mombasa Water and Sewerage Company will regulate water kiosks. The companies will decide how many kiosks are needed in what areas. Licences will only be given to water kiosks where the companies deem absolutely necessary."

Given the obvious challenges with regulation of the kiosk sub-sector, wouldn't the most cost-effective solution to collusion be increasing, rather than decreasing, competition? Won't the restriction of license supply, and the concentration of power over who gets them into a few hands, simply create opportunities for new types of rent-seeking (and reduce the availability of water supplies to households)?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Poop n paddle" demo in NY

Here's an entertaining video about a floating toilet that uses anaerobic digestion and mini constructed wetlands to process the excreta. The facility was built by Adam Katzman in Queens, NY.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New paper on efficacy of ABHS in field conditions

Efficacy of alcohol-based hand sanitizer on hands soiled with dirt and cooking oil

Amy J. Pickering, Jennifer Davis and Alexandria B. Boehm

Journal of Water and Health Vol 9 No 3 pp 429–433 © IWA Publishing 2011 doi:10.2166/wh.2011.138

Emmet Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, School of Earth Sciences, Stanford University, Jerry Yang & Akiko Yamazaki Environment & Energy Building, 473 Via Ortega, Room 247 MC: 4020, Stanford, CA 94305, USA E-mail:
Environment and Water Studies, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, USA. Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, Stanford, USA

Handwashing education and promotion are well established as effective strategies to reduce diarrhea and respiratory illness in countries around the world. However, access to reliable water supplies has been identified as an important barrier to regular handwashing in low-income countries. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS) is an effective hand hygiene method that does not require water, but its use is not currently recommended when hands are visibly soiled. This study evaluated the efficacy of ABHS on volunteers' hands artificially contaminated with Escherichia coli in the presence of dirt (soil from Tanzania) and cooking oil. ABHS reduced levels of E. coli by a mean of 2.33 log colony forming units (CFU) per clean hand, 2.32 log CFU per dirt-covered hand, and 2.13 log CFU per oil-coated hand. No significant difference in efficacy was detected between hands that were clean versus dirty or oily. ABHS may be an appropriate hand hygiene method for hands that are moderately soiled, and an attractive option for field settings in which access to water and soap is limited.