2.6 Water for domestic use – drinking, preparing food and washing

Described image
Figure 7 Water for domestic use.

Access to safe drinking water and managed sanitation systems that accords with WHO standards is a challenge across the country. Access to a piped supply of safe drinking water is not equally accessible, and even in places with a piped system, water is not necessarily of drinking quality. The goal is to supply more drinking water through a piped water system but, currently, rainwater harvesting, and deep tube wells are the major sources for drinking water, even in some urban areas.

The 2014 census reveals that only 69.5% of households have access to improved sources of drinking water. Of these, 87% were urban households, while just 62.7% of rural households had access to improved sources of drinking water. This level of supply of improved sources is significantly below the aggregate levels reached in Southeast Asia as a region, where 90% of all households had access to improved sources of drinking water in 2015 (Government of Myanmar, 2017).

The majority of Myanmar’s population obtain drinking water from groundwater sources rather than surface water, which has cut the number of diarrheal and other disease infections. Storage of water in reservoirs, community ponds, and large drums for the collection of rainwater for domestic and drinking water is also common in rural area.

Domestic use of water in Myanmar is the second largest use after agriculture, and includes sanitation, cooking, as well as drinking water. Groundwater is also mostly used for domestic purposes.

In rural areas, it is predominantly women and girls who are responsible for collecting water for domestic use. Over half of rural households use either tube wells, protected wells, or springs (ADB, 2017). The physical carrying capacity of women and girls limits the amount of water used domestically in rural households.

In Mandalay and Yangon, only a small percentage of the population receives water that has been treated and only at certain times of the day, whilst in other parts of the country, the supplied water is untreated. This means that many urban dwellers rely on bottled water.

For example, there are three main sources of water supply in Yangon city, the most populous city in the country. These are Gyo Phyu, Phoo Gyi and Nga Moe Yeik water reservoirs, providing over 7.6 million litres of water every day. However, about half of the water supply is wasted due to water losses and leakage in the supply system.

Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) has been facing difficulties managing water wastage and lacks the resources required to prevent illegal tapping of water from the city’s pipelines, which is then repackaged and sold for higher prices in various municipalities, resulting in losses for the city. Currently, water prices charged do not cover production costs, with the government subsidizing the balance for the benefit of the public. As such, the city has opted to allow private companies to manage the supply and distribution of water. Over 30 local and foreign companies are seeking to invest in the city's water distribution project.

The construction of pipelines is underway from the Lagwunpyin water storage facility to Thakayta and Dawbon townships in Yangon Region. The project is expected to distribute 11.3 million litres of water each day on completion. Pipelines are being laid along Shukinthar Road and Ayeyawun Road.

A project worker on the section of new pipeline in Shukinthar Road, which will help to distribute more water to the public, said, “We are prioritizing on connecting the bigger pipelines as the smaller pipes can be joined more easily” (Global New Light of Myanmar, 2019).

The main source of water supply for Mandalay City and small towns in the surrounding region is from the Ayeyarwady River and Sedawgyi Dam. Water Supply in Mandalay comes from three systems:

  1. Moat water supply system
  2. Tube well (artesian well) water supply
  3. Other water supply system.

A moat was traditionally a body of water around a palace or town to keep people out, a defensive measure. Moats are deep, wide ditches filled with water. They were usually built near sources of water that flowed into the moats. Today they act as additional water resources for distribution into canals and wells, which is how the moat is used in Mandalay city.

Described image
Figure 8 Mandalay fort and moat, where the moat acts as a water reservoir.

In a tube well system, the tube wells are drilled into the bank of the river. The average tube well is about 40cm in diameter and about 150m in depth. The production of water from each tube well is about 190,000 litres per hour and there are a total of 17,867 tube wells in Mandalay City.

The other water supply systems supplying Mandalay are canals like the Yaynimyaung canal, and creeks, such as the Payandaw creek, as well as private wells.

Rising urbanization is likely to increase water demand in Myanmar’s towns and cities. The 2014 census revealed that fewer than 30% of the population live in urban areas, or nearly 15 million people, up from 24% from the previous census in 1983 when 8.5 million people lived in urban areas. However, this level of urbanization is one of the lowest in Southeast Asia, less than Vietnam (34%), and much lower than in Malaysia (74%) (ADB, 2017).

Population increase will also lead to greater household water demand, but again the increase is slow. In 2014, Myanmar’s population was 51.5 million, up from 35.3 million in 1983. Recent analysis by the Ministry of Immigration and Population suggests that the population has grown by less than 1% per year since 2010 (ADB, 2017).

As for sanitation, about three quarters of all households had access to improved sanitation, which is in line with regional levels. In urban areas 92% of households enjoyed improved sanitation, compared to 67% in rural households. A nationwide overhaul of the sanitation system is necessary to ensure safe public health conditions (Government of Myanmar, 2017).

Question 5

 Water Supply % Sanitation % 
(Source: United Nations Environment Programme and United Nations Children's Fund–World Health Organization, 2012, Progress in Drinking Water and Sanitation. Joint Monitoring Program adjusted using Union of Myanmar Population and Housing Census 2014.)

Study the table above and answer the following questions.

Part 1

Which period saw the greatest improvement in water supply access in rural areas?


Between 1990-2000


Between 2000-2014

The correct answer is a.

Part 2

Which period saw the greatest improvement in water supply access in urban areas?


Between 1900-2000


Between 2000-2014

The correct answer is a.

Part 3

Where was the greatest improvement in access to sanitation between 2000 and 2014?





The correct answer is b.

2.5 Water for agricultural use

2.7 Water for industrial use