Economic Costs of Inadequate Water and Sanitation: South Tarawa, Kiribati

Date: April 2014
Type: Reports
Series: Pacific Studies
ISBN: 978-92-9254-500-0 (print), 978-92-9254-501-7 (web)
Price: US$22.00 (hardcopy)


The inadequate water supply and sanitation situation in Kiribati’s main urban center, South Tarawa, has contributed to high rates of water-borne diseases and environmental degradation in Bairiki, Betio and Bikenibeu towns and surrounding areas.

There has been limited capital investment in water supply and sanitation infrastructure and ongoing operations and maintenance South Tarawa, in part, as a result of low cost recovery in service delivery.

To enable more informed policy responses to address the current situation, this study seeks to estimate the total economic costs associated with inadequate water and sanitation services Kiribati’s main urban center.


If appropriate action is not taken now to address the current risks associated with inadequate water and sanitation, the hidden costs are expected to grow due to

  • increased population in South Tarawa on account of high fertility rates and internal migration;
  • continued increase in the settlement of people in the catchment area that supports groundwater lens in Bonriki and Bouta, resulting to pollution of the main source of groundwater and higher water treatment costs; and
  • effects of climate change from increased level of rainfall and air temperature, and rise in sea level and to result in increased incidence of flooding and mosquito populations that will ultimately increase the incidence of water- and vector-borne diseases and in ground water salinity.

Urgent actions are needed to address current and changing risks of water and vector-borne diseases. There are both private and public dimensions to the challenge, and a multipronged approach is needed to reduce the economic costs of inadequate water and sanitation facilities and practices. It includes the following measures:

  • investments in adequate water supply and sanitation infrastructure that can be sustainably operated and maintained;
  • tariffs that better reflect 'user pays' principles to ensure improved cost recovery in the delivery of water supply and sanitation services;
  • sustained public awareness campaigns on the links between health, water supply, sanitation, and hygiene; and
  • integrated approaches to simultaneously improve water supply, sanitation, and hygiene conditions in South Tarawa communities.


  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Analysis of the Water Supply and Sanitation Situation in South Tarawa
  • Impacts of Poor Water and Sanitation
  • Economic Costs of Inadequate Water and Sanitation
  • Reducing Economic Burden of Poor Water and Sanitation
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Annexes