Microcredit financing schemes and community-based pipe networks have been introduced into low-income areas nationally to increase people's accessibility to clean drinking water.
Director for drinking water development at the Public Works Ministry, Sitti Bellafolijani, said Monday that currently most low-income families living in urban-slum areas had to pay up to 10 times the average price compared to those living in wealthier areas for their monthly tap water.
"While most wealthier areas are connected to piped water, poorer regions have to use either low-quality water from contaminated shallow wells or rivers or buy it from water vendors at higher prices," she said at the launch of USAID's Environmental Services Program (ESP) guidelines on access to drinking water.
Director for settlement and housing at the National Development Planning Agency, Budi Hidayat, said the inaccessibility of piped water in poorer areas was due to the costs of installing new pipes, among other reasons.
ESP's Gusril Bahar said microcredit financing schemes were allowing low-income families to pay for the new water connections in installments. Under this scheme, local partner banks provide soft loans to help families cover the costs and pay local tap water companies (PDAMs).
The banks include state lender Bank BRI and region-owned Bank Jatim and Bank Sumut.
ESP said it had facilitated the establishment of microcredit programs for new piped water connections in 11 PDAMs across Java and North Sumatra throughout the year.
Financial constraints are not the only obstacle preventing piped water from reaching low-income families. Problems related to illegal land status, fear of water theft, leakages and inefficient water billing have also contributed to some PADM's refusing to expand coverage.
ESP has introduced its "Communal Master Meter" program in response to this issue, which involves a PDAM installing a meter for a certain number of households in a community. This program requires the establishment of a community-based organization responsible for the operation and maintenance of the simple pipe network and master meter, including the flexible billing of customers and monthly payments to PDAMs.
According to the Public Works Ministry, piped water coverage reaches only 45 percent of households in urban areas and barely 10 percent of rural areas. The average percentage of piped water service at a national level stands at 24 percent.
A 2006 National Economic Survey data revealed that most Indonesians obtain their drinking water from non-piped-water sources, including wells, underground streams (using pumps), springs and rivers.
Expanding the tap water networks will be crucial for Indonesia should it wish to meet its Millennium Development Goals. One of these targets it to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015. Through piped water systems, said Gusril, people will be able to obtain the best quality safe drinking water.
Under a 2004 law on water resources, the private sector is allowed to invest in the piped water industry.