Diarrheal diseases are a leading cause of mortality in the developing world, killing around 2.6 million people per year in the period 1990-2000. Diarrhea is widespread in rural Kenya, where 43% of the population gets their drinking water from often contaminated nearby springs. Working with a local NGO to conduct a randomized evaluation, researchers identified 200 springs in the Busia district of Western Kenya and persuaded each local community to contribute 10% of the costs for improvement. NGOs also conducted community meetings at which local residents were placed in charge of maintaining the protected springs. Results found that spring infrastructure investments reduce fecal contamination by 66% in treated springs, but only 24% in users’ home water supplies due to recontamination. Diarrheal incidence in children under 3 fell by 25%, and families began increasing their use of protected springs for drinking water, relative to other sources. Despite these effects, empirical estimates for how much people were willing to pay for clean water were approximately one third of what households reported.
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