Quantification and Modeling of Health Benefits and Reduced Caloric Expenditure as a Function of Improved Water Supply in Low-Income Countries

EPA Grant Number: FP917363
Title: Quantification and Modeling of Health Benefits and Reduced Caloric Expenditure as a Function of Improved Water Supply in Low-Income Countries
Investigators: Russel, Kory C
Institution: Stanford University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 1, 2011 through August 31, 2014
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Human Health: Public Health Sciences


What is the impact of different levels of water supply service on the caloric cost of water fetching within rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa? What is the metabolic equivalent of task (MET) value of water fetching within a rural population in Mozambique? What share of total daily energy expenditure is accounted for by water fetching in rural Mozambique? What are the impacts on energy expenditure of water supply improvements in rural Mozambique? What factors determine the magnitude and distribution of those impacts?


The study comprises three parts: (1) The study will complete about 1,600 household surveys in 60 communities with the help of trained Mozambican enumerators, who will administer questionnaires using personal digital assistants (PDAs). Each household will be visited before and after a water supply intervention. Questions will be asked regarding water supply services, fetching practices and water quantities consumed. (2) Three communities will be selected for indepth investigation, including a sample of 10 adult females in each community. Study participants will be asked to perform water fetching and other daily activities while wearing a Zephyr Bioharness monitor. The monitor will measure the exertion of water fetching in a field setting, and will allow the estimation of fetching as a share of a total daily caloric budget. (3) In a laboratory based experiment, 30 female subjects will be asked to perform typical daily tasks while wearing an Oxycon mobile metabolic monitor, so as to obtain highly accurate metabolic data.

Expected Results:

The study will yield the first known comparison between laboratory- and field-based estimates of the caloric costs of water fetching in rural Africa, as well as a rigorous estimate of the share of the daily caloric budget attributable to water supply. Findings also will include an assessment of the impacts of water supply improvements on caloric expenditures. Such insights ideally will shed light on which types of water supply interventions deliver cost-effective gains to rural households.

Potential to Further Environmental / Human Health Protection

Water fetching represents a substantial health burden for more than 1 billion women worldwide. This research will help quantify that burden, and will inform future interventions that can reduce the time and energy costs, as well as the physical burden, of fetching water.

Supplemental Keywords:

energy expenditure, water supply, water fetching, borewell, handpump, health indicators, developing countries, Africa

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2012
  • 2013
  • Final