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Journal of Water and Health Vol 12 No 1 pp 173–183 © IWA Publishing 2014 doi:10.2166/wh.2013.042

The challenge of global water access monitoring: evaluating straight-line distance versus self-reported travel time among rural households in Mozambique

Jeff C. Ho, Kory C. Russel and Jennifer Davis

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, 473 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA 94305, USA E-mail: jennadavis@stanford.edu
Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, 473 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA 94305, USA


Support is growing for the incorporation of fetching time and/or distance considerations in the definition of access to improved water supply used for global monitoring. Current efforts typically rely on self-reported distance and/or travel time data that have been shown to be unreliable. To date, however, there has been no head-to-head comparison of such indicators with other possible distance/time metrics. This study provides such a comparison. We examine the association between both straight-line distance and self-reported one-way travel time with measured route distances to water sources for 1,103 households in Nampula province, Mozambique. We find straight-line, or Euclidean, distance to be a good proxy for route distance (R2 = 0.98), while self-reported travel time is a poor proxy (R2 = 0.12). We also apply a variety of time- and distance-based indicators proposed in the literature to our sample data, finding that the share of households classified as having versus lacking access would differ by more than 70 percentage points depending on the particular indicator employed. This work highlights the importance of the ongoing debate regarding valid, reliable, and feasible strategies for monitoring progress in the provision of improved water supply services.

Keywords: Africa; GIS; monitoring; Mozambique; water access; water fetching

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