Contending with Water Shortages in the Pacific: Performance of Private Rainwater Tanks versus Communal Rainwater Tanks in Rural Vanuatu

American Geophysical Union (AGU)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Water Resources Research, 2021, 57, (11), pp. 1-13
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Around 2 million people in the Pacific depend on rainwater collection for their drinking water, however these systems often struggle to provide sufficient quantities of water year round. This study examined the performance of 1,878 rainwater tanks across 19 islands in Vanuatu to assess whether the likelihood of a sufficient year-round supply of drinking water differed between village-level rainwater tanks used communally and private rainwater tanks owned by individual households (i.e., self-supply). More than half of the tanks assessed failed to provide a sufficient supply of water year round. Compared with communal rainwater tanks, private rainwater tanks had significantly higher odds of a sufficient year-round supply of water (adjusted odds ratio 1.61, 95% confidence interval 1.24–2.09, p < 0.001). This relationship was evident when adjusting for village-level clustering, year of installation, presence of other improved water sources, tank volume, number of users, and a proxy indicator for rainfall. Private rainwater tanks outperformed communal rainwater tanks irrespective of whether communal tanks were managed by a community-based committee. The findings support the notion that in some circumstances private property rights can help avert resource depletion, and that household self-supply is capable of delivering a more reliable water supply than community-based management. However, the study design was unable to rule out differences in roof catchment area as a factor influencing the results. Further work is needed to confirm and elucidate the mechanisms by which private ownership facilitates a year-round supply and understand the wider advantages and disadvantages of self-supply.
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