ENVIRONMENT + HEALTH
The high value of water
Study: People willing to pay more for running water report much higher levels of happiness when they have it.
MIT economist Esther Duflo says the results “suggest we should also go beyond the broader indicators of welfare that are often used, such as health: There were no health improvements, but people [in households with water] are very happy.”
If you’re reading this, odds are you’ve already used running water in your home today. But you’re in a minority: Globally, at least a billion people have no nearby source of water, while of the remaining six billion or so, only 42 percent have running water in their homes or a tap in the yard, according to the World Health Organization.
Now a new field experiment, co-authored by MIT economist Esther Duflo, shows just how much access to clean water matters to people. Residents of Morocco, the experiment demonstrates, are willing to take out loans and pay twice as much for water per month in order to have it piped into their homes. And despite the dent in their bottom-line finances, people in households that gain running water report significant improvements in well-being and happiness.