Most people don’t live near the source of their water.

Distribution systems move water from a source
and deliver it to the people who use it.

Different distribution systems are used depending on the needs of the people and the amount of infrastructure available.

All systems run the risk of contaminating water when not handled properly.

Likewise, each system has a cost involved with bringing safe, reliable drinking water to people.

Household Service

In most larger cities of the world, water is pumped from a natural source, treated in a water treatment plant, stored for use in water storage tanks and piped directly into the household.

The cost of household service is usually paid by consumers, not only for the delivery and treatment of this water, but also for the upkeep of this system.

If the infrastructure is not maintained, household service can become unreliable and potentially unsafe.

Water Supply by Vehicle

In areas where household plumbing is unreliable or non-existent, other distribution systems have developed.

In the Mexico City area, more than 2 million people live beyond the reach of piped distribution systems.

For these people, water trucks transport water from treated sources to community distribution points or directly to a home or residence.

Water trucks may also be used to combat a temporary water crises caused by war or natural disaster.

Bottled Water and Water Refilling Stations

Bottled water or water refilling stations are used in many areas where people have no access to safe water.

In the Philippines, purified water is sold at water refilling stations throughout the country.

At these stations, consumers may bring their own containers to carry the water away.

The poor are the ones most dependent on vehicle delivery, bottled water, or water refilling stations.

Unfortunately, the poor also pay the highest prices for all of the water that must be delivered by such methods.

Central Community Source

In rural areas, where little to no household infrastructure exists, communities dig wells and boreholes and pump groundwater to a central location within the community.

From these centralized community sources, consumers collect the water themselves and bring it to their homes for treatment and use.

In rural Niger, hand pumps and solar pumps were installed by international aid organizations at central locations in villages.

These pumps provide easier access to clean water without having to haul water up from traditional wells.

These water stations are used by the community and, in many cases, maintained by the community.

Individual Water Transport

Many people, especially in rural areas of developing countries, walk to a river, lake, or other water source and retrieve water in containers.

This water is brought to the home and requires treatment before use.

In relation to other methods, this distribution system is the least technologically complex.

Yet it involves opportunity costs.

Water gatherers, primarily women and children, may spend hours each day engaged in this basic chore.

The responsibility leaves them little time for schooling, growing food, earning income, or other initiatives that could help to break the cycle of poverty.

In India, some women walk 16 to 20 kilometers a day in search of water—a grueling trek that takes 3 to 4 hours every single day.

Regardless of location, all distribution systems have some form of infrastructure that must be maintained to keep water safe.

And while all distribution systems involve costs, some costs can be more expensive than others.