Better Drinking Water Access for Children’s Better Future

Human needs clean water to live. Polluted water is not only dirty and not suitable for consumption, but can also be harmful and even cause death. To improve the quality of life of the community and fulfill the basic rights of all the people, provision of guaranteed access to drinking water needs to be seriously considered as one of the national development priorities. Limited access to water can rob children of education and economic opportunities and prevent them from getting out of poverty. Due to distant access of water from home, children in remote areas often get the task to obtain water for their families too. This responsibility will take up their time which should be used for learning and playing. Safe and accessible water access will give them extra time so they can play like children in general and use the time to study for their future.

Infrastructure development is one of priorities in President Joko Widodo’s administration. Mr. President emphasized on various occasions how important infrastructure is for the progress of a nation, including as a basic foundation in economic growth and increasing the independence of a country. This also applies to the construction and development of drinking water infrastructure or commonly referred to as the Sistem Penyediaan Air Minum (Drinking Water Supply System) or SPAM.

Another challenge beside the lack of SPAM providers in rural areas is that the infrastructure used to distribute water in Indonesia is usually outdated, poorly maintained and prone to leakage. If the distribution system is damaged, water could be contaminated with waterborne disease organisms. The rapid rate of population growth also resulted in a gap between population and service coverage. Lack of local experts is often a barrier to creating more modern water treatment distribution system as well, which requires trained personnel for operations and maintenance.

Based on the performance appraisal conducted by the Agency for the Improvement of the Implementation of Drinking Water Supply Systems (BPPSPAM) towards 371 Regional Drinking Water Companies (PDAM) in 2016, they found that the number of PDAM in healthy condition was 198 (53%), 108 in unwell condition (29%), and 65 ailing (18% ) This condition is different from 2015, where 368 PDAMs were assessed and resulted in 196 (53%) PDAM in healthy condition, 100 unwell (27%), and 72 (20%) ailing. Whereas in 2014, of the 359 PDAM assessed, 182 (51%) were in healthy condition, 103 unwell (29%), and 74 (21%) ailing (BAPPENAS 2017). It can be concluded that from 2014 to 2016, the number of healthy PDAM increased only slightly, the number of unwell PDAM increased and the number of ailing PDAM decreased slightly. Another challenge for SPAM in Indonesia is that there are still many improvements needed from the government to maintain SPAM.

In accordance with Law No. 23 Year 2014 concerning Regional Government, drinking water supply is one of the main responsibility of regional government in regards of providing basic compulsory services. Along with the government development program, the funding aspect for the development of SPAM must also be the commitment and concern of the regional government. Nevertheless with limited local government funding and other development priorities, the central government also supports the development of SPAM in local regions through APBN, hence the SPAM infrastructure development gets joint funding from the regional government and the central government.

In addition to the APBN and APBD, the government also opens opportunities for business entities to support the development of SPAM through the mechanism of Public Private Partnership (PPP) listed in Government Regulation No. 122 Year 2015 concerning Drinking Water Supply Systems. The advantages of the PPP scheme include providing other financing alternatives due to limited government funding, more efficiency, getting new technology used by the private sector, and accelerating the increase of coverage and quality of public services. PPP scheme is expected to optimize investment costs, especially in urban areas where population growth is increasing rapidly. The ability of people in cities to pay which tends to be bigger is a strong reason for investors to invest, but what about people in remote areas who cannot afford it? The lack of conducive business climate has caused the private sector to be reluctant to develop SPAM in rural areas. As a result, the piping network and drinking water supply for the rural poor have received little attention from the government or the private sector.

One of the efforts to develop SPAM in Indonesia can be started from schools by providing drinking water installations to build habits and increase awareness to children, teachers, parents, and people around the school environment. The water filter system guarantees the cleanliness of water so it minimizes potential disease due to contaminated water. Children will also be able to set aside a portion of their pocket money to buy other necessities other than drinking water. This system is also easy to learn so that anyone can operate and maintain it. Application of Drinking Water Programs in schools can offer drinking water supply options to assist the government in both urban and remote areas, especially for children. With a good and affordable drinking water supply system, children will have the opportunity to develop their potential because they have more time to learn and play, so the hope of having a brighter future is greater as well.