Bangalore: More than 80 percent of people in rural areas of Karnataka do not have potable drinking water source within their residential premises, forcing them to depend on inferior and unsafe options, a research study has indicated.

"In rural Karnataka as a whole, only 18.5 percent of the total households reported that the drinking water source was within the household premises," according to the findings of the study conducted by Prof D Rajesekhar and R Manjula at the Centre for Decentralisation and Development of the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore.

"Increased distance in accessing the potable drinking water forces the people to fall back on inferior and unsafe sources," said the researchers, who studied data collected from 5,212 out of 5,665 gram panchayats (GPs) in the State on drinking water supply services.

The study – 'Decentralised Governance and Service Delivery – Affordability of Drinking Water Supply by Gram Panchayats in Karnataka' – revealed that more than 58 per cent of the GPs in the State were spending more than Rs five for every one rupee of receipts, raising serious questions of affordability.

"The analysis shows that a large proportion of GPs in the State spent much more than what they received towards drinking water provisioning. In other words, the affordability of GPs to operate and maintain water supply sources was less," the study said.

The research found that although poor access to drinking water supply was the result of several factors, the poor affordability of GPs to maintain water supply sources was an important factor.

A large proportion of the GPs, which incur expenditure on electricity, maintenance charges and salaries to watermen, fixed water rates at less than Rs 20 per household per month. There was no attempt to find out the affordability of water supply services through periodic calculations and resorting to mid-course corrections, and inefficiency in the expenditure on water supply sources contributed to the problem.

The study recommended listing of all houses in the jurisdiction of the GP and bringing them under the house tax (user charges and water cess are part it) net.

"The State Government should enable GPs to arrive at house tax on equity basis (fixation of tax on the basis of size and quality of the house)," the researchers said. "The GPs should periodically revise house tax rates. In this regard, incentives are to be provided to them".

GPs should apply water user rates as prescribed by the government and periodically revise them, the study said.

In order to resolve the situation, the study suggested that the state government work out incentives "in such a way that they motivate the GPs to improve tax or user charges base, collect all the cess and water user charges that they themselves fix and periodically revise tax and water user rates".