Many rural households do not have access to treated drinking water. However, some households may be in regions where a water treatment plant has excess capacity to supply some additional households. In such circumstances, small diameter low-pressure supply systems can be connected to major transmission lines to give these households access to water. These typically occur in locations that do not belong to recognized municipal or other local government. Such supply systems, commonly referred to as “trickle fill,” have been implemented in South America, Africa and Canada. This paper explains the concept of trickle fill supply systems. A user-friendly decision-making framework is proposed to assist the decision maker to determine whether the implementation of a trickle fill system is economically feasible for a given rural area. The decision-making assessment template (DMAT) takes into projects the economic, energy and carbon footprint changes. A case study for a rural municipality in the province of Alberta, Canada is presented to illustrate the value of the DMAT and the feasibility of trickle fill water supply as a solution. In this case study, a trickle fill water supply solution is found to be technically and economically viable and would reduce energy consumption and the carbon footprint. It is shown that trickle fill solution can be implemented, resulting in an average cost of water to be $165 per month per household. This is higher than the affordability threshold of 2% of the median household income, but comparable to the cost that the end users currently pay for drinking water in the area. A capital grant from a higher level of government, or low interest rate financing, would reduce the end user costs to the level of the affordability criterion mentioned here. Hence, a trickle fill solution is worth investigating for some rural residents.
Key words: Rural water systems; economic feasibility; carbon footprint, small diameter water distribution pipelines.
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