ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Data Discrepancies

Interpreting Rural Water Data in the Decadal Census

A study of water sources for 16 villages around Bengaluru points to the discrepancies between house listing data and village amenities data, both from Census 2011, but drawn from different sources, suggesting that users should be cautious while drawing interpretations from census data on rural water. The study also questions whether census data on access to taps is an accurate indicator of piped water coverage, and whether data on treated water collected from households is reliable.

This work was carried out as part of a socio-hydrological research project undertaken by ATREE with support from International Development Research Centre, Canada. The authors thank colleagues at ATREE and census officials from the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, for clarifications. The final interpretations are those of the authors. 

The census provides data on access to drinking water sources in urban and rural areas. The data are used by government departments to assess the status of water supply in India, and by researchers to understand access to water sources across regions and among different sections of society. Census 2011 reports that 30.8% of households in rural India access taps for drinking water, and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) uses this as an indicator of piped water coverage (Government of India 2013). While access to taps is the terminology used by the census, piped water coverage is the terminology used by the MDWS. The ministry aims to cover 90% of rural households with piped water supply by 2022, at 70 lpcd (litres per capita per day), which includes both potable and non-potable water. In this article, we point out aspects that should be considered while interpreting decadal census data on rural water, drawing upon different components of the census data itself, and a year-long field study conducted in 201314 covering 518 households in 16 villages around Bengaluru in Karnataka. First, we show that there are discrepancies in data on water sources between house listing data and village amenities data, both from the 2011 Census for the 16 villages that we surveyed. Second, we discuss whether census data on access to taps can be used as an indicator of piped water coverage. Third, we look at the reliability of data collected from households related to treated water.

Study Area

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Published On : 23rd Feb, 2024

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