Student Projects - Economics - B.S.
Fairfield-Leon Water Project
Leon, Nicaragua struggles with the demand for constant, clean water. Access to acquire the resource of water is a large issue within the nation. The national water system is composed of 7 pumps that extract water from underground, but in the last 16 years, Leon’s population has doubled and the demands for constant water have increased. In addition to this surge of capacity, the aquifer systems are over 50 years old and nearly 30% of the water being pumped out of the aquifers are unable to reach residents taps.
In response to Leon’s inadequate water system, many residents are responding by purifying or filtering their current water. Others choose to purchase bottled water in order to avoid water-borne illnesses such as diarrhea or giardiasis. Our goal of this project was to work with Nicaraguan students to determine various factors that are affected by the purchase, usage, and cleanliness of the local water.
Our survey, consisting of 6 sections, was designed as a contingent valuation method that followed an iterative approach. Sections included respondents’ daily practices regarding the supply of their water, their consumption of bottled water, and their preference of drinking water from an alternative source (i.e tap, well, etc). The 4th section included a contingent scenario where respondents were presented with a valuation question: the total fee was randomly varied across the sample from C$100 to C$600 in increments of C$50.
Based on a 2002 tax and assessment map of Leon, the city was divided into 8 geographical zones to represent a stratified random sampling strategy, and then 15% of the homes in each zone were randomly selected to be surveyed.
After 3 weeks in Leon, we gathered over 700 samples of data which would then be analyzed through various methodology and ordered models. Five paper topics arose from the gathered data and these topics included averting behavior and perceptions on water quality, the public preference for decentralization by investigating household’s willingness to pay for improved water services, and the social desirability bias within our surveys. The other two topics were the user perception, which is the idea that people answer questions based on the information they perceive by their neighbors, and valuation/willingness to pay which analyzes the numeric values that the respondent’s are prepared to pay.
In January 2010, Dr. Dina Franceschi and I traveled to Cuenca, Ecuador to present our findings at the 6th International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability. This opportunity allowed us to address various attributes and disciplines that were found through our research of water services in Leon, Nicaragua. In addition to introducing our findings in presentation form, Dr Franceschi and I attended various workshops, panel sessions, and talking circles in order to facilitate focused discussion of various issues.