The influence of the distance to running water or standing water bodies on rural household income.
Rural areas in South Africa are characterised by a lack of formal authority and inadequate basic services such as water and sanitation. As a result, deficiencies here include, but are not limited to, poor access to health facilities, inferior infrastructure and unreliable water availability. The lack of sufficient water remains a prevalent issue in these rural areas, impairing appropriate environmental, hygiene, food and personal practices. Over large areas, the main sources of water continue to be rivers and fountains, which is used for the running of households. Water cuts through the centre of any development work within any community, and it is not unreasonable to assume that in communities where no piped water is available, living standards may be affected by the distance that household members have to cover to access water from natural sources. Yet stressing the provision of piped water has meant that research towards understanding the effects of distance to water sources has been lacking, while provision often continues to lag. A further factor to consider is the variation in income and the way human settlements are positioned in relation to water, relating to environmental and cultural factors, which vary across provinces. This study takes a quantitative approach to identify the data sources relevant to measuring the distance from water to households, as well as income in the relevant communities. It seeks patterns in the positioning of households in relation to water and focuses on establishing if there is, in fact, a relationship between the distance of households to water bodies and income in rural South Africa. The sample included nine villages across three provinces: Eastern Cape (Ntaboduli, Mdakeni, Matshona), KwaZulu-Natal (Vongunzana, Dinsi, Sangweyana Estate) and Limpopo (India, Sekwati, Ga-mohwibidu). The distance from 30 households in each of the nine communities to their nearest standing or running water was ascertained using Google Earthᵀᴹ. Thereafter, with the use of census data, the average household income of each village was plotted against the distance from water in metres. An inverse relationship matched the expectation that, as distance increases, income decreases, which can be linked to the amount of time spent collecting water. The relationship was not significant, but this is likely attributable to the small sample size and lack of income data at household scale. The researcher suggests that the more time is spent having to collect water, the less time is left available to earn a living. The research also identified some patterns in household distribution in relation to water by province and village, which are likely linked to practical, but also cultural, factors. This study recommends investing in proper water infrastructure for rural villages in South Africa.
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