The Jakarta Post
This is a comment to a letter titled 'Water: Prerogative or privilege,' (The Jakarta Post, Oct. 27) by Vanshika Virmani.
I fully agree with the author. Water is too important to be monetized and privatized. I agree that we are in a very inefficient system. Profit from bottled water goes to developed countries. State-owned tap water operator PDAM's water is unclean and some areas still use wells and rivers as their primary source of water. Inherently, households have to incur the costs of obtaining, transporting and processing water, as well as the time costs associated with them.
Being objective, I think we would all agree that the more efficient system is to have tap water drinkable at the point of use ' without further processing. A reverse-osmosis filtration system is one way to tackle this problem in the short term. However, we need to take into account the huge upfront investment cost ' which households might not have ' and ongoing costs such as for electricity and maintenance.
A better solution is to improve the PDAM system: from filtration, processing and water transportation infrastructure (rusty pipes, leaks, contamination), so that households can simply drink tap water.
This will require even bigger upfront investment, but it pays for itself when we consider the lower household expenses, increase of household budget for other essentials, future health benefits in averted sickness episodes, associated improvement in productivity in the workforce and school, and the stronger economy we have down the line.
I am working on research to evaluate the societal cost of water and sanitation in Indonesia, a potential collaboration between Harvard and the University of Indonesia. In the near future, hopefully we will have better data to help the Indonesian government make the right decision.