Water collectors
Water collectors of Kenyan households. Photo: EfD

The short-run impacts of reducing water collection times on time use, well-being, and education in rural Kenya

EfD Discussion Paper
25 September 2021

Joseph Cook, Jane Kabubo-Mariara, Peter Kimuyu


Millions of households devote significant time to collecting water. This paper examines the impact that water collection has on time allocation and emotional well-being in rural Kenya.  We reduced water collection times to zero for randomly chosen households by having vendors deliver water each day over four weeks. Data on time use and affect come from short surveys that the household’s main water collector completed on a mobile phone at randomly chosen times each day during a four-week baseline and the four weeks of treatment. Parents also reported school attendance, chores, and minutes spent studying for school-aged children in the household, and we matched children to school attendance records. Of the approximately 95 minutes per day of water collection that the treatment eliminated, respondents reallocated approximately half to other household chores, 20% to working on the household’s farm, and 25% to leisure. We find no evidence of an increase in paid work. Respondents report feeling happier, more energetic, safer, and less likely to be in physical pain. Treatment increased school-recorded attendance by 3.6 percentage points. Receiving vended water reduced the probability that children collect water, but their time was reallocated to cleaning and cooking. Nevertheless, children in treated households spent roughly 15% more minutes studying.  Our results have implications for estimating the benefits of improving access to the rural water supply. 

Publication reference
MS 1197 DP 21-09 21
Publication | 27 September 2021