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Unpackaging demand for water service quality : evidence from conjoint surveys in Sri Lanka


  • Yang, Jui-Chen
  • Pattanayak, Subhrendu K.
  • Jonson, F. Reed
  • Mansfield, Carol
  • van den Berg, Caroline
  • Jones, Kelly


In the early 2000s, the Government of Sri Lanka considered engaging private sector operators to manage water and sewerage services in two separate service areas: one in the town of Negombo (north of Colombo), and one stretching along the coastal strip (south from Colombo) from the towns of Kalutara to Galle. Since then, the government has abandoned the idea of setting up a public-private partnership in these two areas. This paper is part of a series of investigations to determine how these pilot private sector transactions (forming part of the overall water sector reform strategy) could be designed in such a manner that they would benefit the poor. The authors describe the results of a conjoint survey evaluating the factors that drive customer demand for alternative water supply and sanitation services in Sri Lanka. They show how conjoint surveys can be used to unpackage household demand for attributes of urban services and improve the design of infrastructure policies. They present conjoint surveys as a tool for field experiments and a source of valuable empirical data. In the study of three coastal towns in southwestern Sri Lanka the conjoint survey allows the authors to compare household preferences for four water supply attributes-price, quantity, safety, and reliability. They examine subpopulations of different income levels to determine if demand is heterogeneous. The case study suggests that households care about service quality (not just price). In general, the authors find that households have diverse preferences in terms of quantity, safety, and service options, but not with regard to hours of supply. In particular, they find that the poor have lower ability to trade off income for services, a finding that has significant equity implications in terms of allocating scarce public services and achieving universal water access.

Suggested Citation

  • Yang, Jui-Chen & Pattanayak, Subhrendu K. & Jonson, F. Reed & Mansfield, Carol & van den Berg, Caroline & Jones, Kelly, 2006. "Unpackaging demand for water service quality : evidence from conjoint surveys in Sri Lanka," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3817, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3817

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
    2. DeShazo, J. R. & Fermo, German, 2002. "Designing Choice Sets for Stated Preference Methods: The Effects of Complexity on Choice Consistency," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 123-143, July.
    3. Louviere,Jordan J. & Hensher,David A. & Swait,Joffre D. With contributions by-Name:Adamowicz,Wiktor, 2000. "Stated Choice Methods," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521788304, March.
    4. David Hensher & Nina Shore & Kenneth Train, 2005. "Households’ Willingness to Pay for Water Service Attributes," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 32(4), pages 509-531, December.
    5. Daniel McFadden & Kenneth Train, 2000. "Mixed MNL models for discrete response," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(5), pages 447-470.
    6. David Revelt & Kenneth Train, 1998. "Mixed Logit With Repeated Choices: Households' Choices Of Appliance Efficiency Level," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(4), pages 647-657, November.
    7. Anders Karlstrom, 2003. "A Simple Method of Incorporating Income Effects into Logit and Nested-Logit Models: Theory and Application," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 85(1), pages 248-253.
    8. Antonio Estache & V. Foster & Q. Wodon, 2002. "Accounting for Poverty in Infrastructure Reform: Learning from Latin America's Experience," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/44108, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
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    Cited by:

    1. Van Houtven, George L. & Pattanayak, Subhrendu K. & Usmani, Faraz & Yang, Jui-Chen, 2017. "What are Households Willing to Pay for Improved Water Access? Results from a Meta-Analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 126-135.
    2. Katherine L. Dickinson & Sumeet R. Patil & Subhrendu K. Pattanayak & Christine Poulos & Jui-Hen Yang, 2015. "Nature's Call: Impacts of Sanitation Choices in Orissa, India," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64(1), pages 1-29.
    3. Poulos, Christine & Yang, Jui-Chen & Patil, Sumeet R. & Pattanayak, Subhrendu & Wood, Siri & Goodyear, Lorelei & Gonzalez, Juan Marcos, 2012. "Consumer preferences for household water treatment products in Andhra Pradesh, India," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(4), pages 738-746.


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