Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 20, Issue 8, pp 2581–2608 | Cite as

Subjective Well-Being Effects of Coping Cost: Evidence from Household Water Supply in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

  • Namrata ChindarkarEmail author
  • Yvonne Jie Chen
  • Yogendra Gurung
Research Paper


Coping with unreliable water supply—in terms of quantity and quality—can impose significant costs on households as they are required to spend more resources on coping strategies such as purchasing, storing, treating, pumping, and collecting. Does increased coping cost affect people’s subjective well-being? We answer this question using unique panel data on urban households in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal from 2001 and 2014. Using previously computed coping cost estimates, we examine the association between total coping cost and both evaluative and hedonic measures of subjective well-being. To understand the underlying mechanisms, we examine the detailed composition of household coping cost and also the correlation between coping cost and time use. We take necessary steps to address potential endogeneity in coping cost and subjective well-being. Our main finding is that increased coping cost is positively correlated with evaluative well-being but not with hedonic well-being. This result is robust to alternate specifications. Exploration of mechanisms suggests that this may be owing to spending on storage tanks and treatment systems, which are likely to be perceived as long-term ‘investments’ that make people more resilient to water insecurity, and not ‘costs’. Further, increased coping cost significantly reduces time spent on collecting water, which may also explain the positive correlation between coping cost and evaluative well-being.


Urban water supply Coping cost Subjective well-being Nepal 



We gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by the Institute of Water Policy, National University of Singapore. We are immensely thankful to Dale Whittington, Wu Xun, Jane Zhao, and Aditi Raina for their valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. We also thank Bal Kumar K. C. and Bhim Suwal for their support in the data collection process. We wish to acknowledge the excellent research assistance provided by Ms. Luu Diu Khue and Mr. Venu Gopal Mothkoor. The findings, interpretations, conclusions, and any errors are entirely those of the authors.

Author’s Contribution

NC designed relevant modules of the survey, monitored data collection, performed the data analysis, and wrote the full paper. YJC designed relevant modules of the survey, monitored data collection, and provided inputs on data analysis and paper framing. YG provided the coping cost estimates, provided inputs in designing the survey, and monitored data collection.


  1. Andrews, D. W. K., & Stock, J. H. (2005). Inference with weak instruments. NBER technical working paper series. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.
  2. Asian Development Bank (ADB). (2015). Proposed loan for additional financing Nepal: Kathmandu valley water supply improvement project. Manila, Philippines.Google Scholar
  3. Becker, G. S., Glaeser, E. L., & Murphy, K. M. (1999). Population and economic growth. American Economic Review,89(2), 145–149.Google Scholar
  4. Becker, G. S., Rayo, L., & Krueger, A. B. (2008). Economic growth and subjective well-being: Reassessing the Easterlin paradox. Comments and discussion. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity,2008(Spring), 88–102.Google Scholar
  5. Carruthers, J. I., & Ulfarsson, G. F. (2003). Urban sprawl and the cost of public services. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design,30(4), 503–522.Google Scholar
  6. Casey, J. F., Kahn, J. R., & Rivas, A. (2006). Willingness to pay for improved water services in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. Ecological Economics,58(2), 365–372.Google Scholar
  7. Chen, S., Qin, P., Tan-Soo, J.-S., & Wei, C. (2019). Recency and projection biases in air quality valuation by Chinese residents. Science of the Total Environment,648, 618–630.Google Scholar
  8. Ching, L. (2018). The paradox of social resilience: Explaining delays in water infrastructure provision in Kathmandu. Water Alternatives,11(1), 61–85.Google Scholar
  9. Cook, J., Kimuyu, P., & Whittington, D. (2016). The costs of coping with poor water supply in rural Kenya. Water Resources Research,52(2), 841–859.Google Scholar
  10. Cooke, P. J., Melchert, T. P., & Connor, K. (2016). Measuring well-being: A review of instruments. The Counseling Psychologist,44(5), 730–757.Google Scholar
  11. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2006). Hedonia, eudaimonia, and well-being: An introduction. Journal of Happiness Studies,9(1), 1–11.Google Scholar
  12. Devoto, F., Duflo, E., Dupas, P., Pariente, W., & Pons, V. (2012). Happiness on tap: Piper water adoption in urban Morocco. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy,4(4), 68–99.Google Scholar
  13. Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin,95(3), 542–575.Google Scholar
  14. Diener, E., Ng, W., Harter, J., & Arora, R. (2010). Wealth and happiness across the world: Material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,99(1), 52–61.Google Scholar
  15. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A., & Gowdy, J. M. (2007). Environmental degradation and happiness. Ecological Economics,60(3), 509–516.Google Scholar
  16. Folkman, S., Lazarus, R. S., Dunkel-Schetter, C., DeLongis, A., & Gruen, R. J. (1986). Dynamics of a stressful encounter: Cognitive appraisal, coping, and encounter outcomes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,50(5), 992–1003.Google Scholar
  17. Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2002). What can economists learn from happiness research? Journal of Economic Literature,40, 402–435.Google Scholar
  18. Fujita, F., & Diener, E. (2005). Life satisfaction set point: Stability and change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,88(1), 158–164.Google Scholar
  19. Government of Nepal. (2001). Tenth National Population Census. Central Bureau of Statistics - National Planning Commission Secretariat, Government of Nepal.Google Scholar
  20. Government of Nepal. (2011). National Population and Housing Census. Central Bureau of Statistics - National Planning Commission Secretariat, Government of Nepal.Google Scholar
  21. Graham, C. (2011). Adaptation amidst prosperity and adversity: Insights from happiness studies from around the world. World Bank Research Observer,26(1), 105–137.Google Scholar
  22. Greyling, T., & Rossouw, S. (2017). Non-economic quality of life and population density in South Africa. Social Indicators Research,134(3), 1051–1075.Google Scholar
  23. Gurung, Y., Zhao, J., Kumar, K. C. B., Wu, X., Suwal, B., & Whittington, D. (2017). The costs of delay in infrastructure investments: A comparison of 2001 and 2014 household water supply coping costs in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Water Resources Research,1, 1. Scholar
  24. Howard, G., Calow, R., Macdonald, A., & Bartram, J. (2016). Climate change and water and sanitation: Likely impacts and emerging trends for action. Annual Review of Environment and Resources,41, 253–276.Google Scholar
  25. Immerzeel, W. W., Van Beek, L. P. H., & Bierkens, M. F. P. (2010). Climate change will affect the Asian water towers. Science,328(5984), 1382–1385.Google Scholar
  26. Jury, W., & Vaux, H. J. (2007). The emerging global water crisis: Managing scarcity and conflict between water users. Advances in Agronomy,95, 1–76.Google Scholar
  27. Kahneman, D., & Deaton, A. (2010). High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,107(38), 16489–16493.Google Scholar
  28. Kahneman, D., & Krueger, A. B. (2006). Developments in the measurement of subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Perspectives,20(1), 3–24.Google Scholar
  29. Kahneman, D., & Sugden, R. (2005). Experienced utility as a standard of policy evaluation. Environmental & Resource Economics,32(1), 161–181.Google Scholar
  30. Kahneman, D., & Thaler, R. H. (2006). Utility maximization and experienced utility. Journal of Economic Perspectives,20(1), 221–234.Google Scholar
  31. Katuwal, H., & Bohara, A. K. (2011). Coping with poor water supplies: Empirical evidence from Kathmandu, Nepal. Journal of Water and Health,9(1), 143–158.Google Scholar
  32. Lazarus, R. S. (1966). Psychological stress and the coping process. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  33. Lazarus, R. S. (1991). Emotion and adaptation. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Lazarus, R. S. (1993). Coping theory and research: Past, present, and future. Psychosomatic Medicine,55(3), 234–247.Google Scholar
  35. Lazarus, R. S. (1999). Stress and emotion: A new synthesis. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  36. Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  37. Lucas, R. E., & Diener, E. (2008). Can we learn about national differences in happiness from individual responses? A multilevel approach. In F. J. R. Van de Vijver, D. A. V. Hemert, & Y. H. Poortinga (Eds.), Multilevel analysis of individuals and cultures. New York: Psychology Press (Taylor & Francis Group).Google Scholar
  38. Maddison, D., & Rehdanz, K. (2011). The impact of climate on life satisfaction. Ecological Economics,70(12), 2437–2445.Google Scholar
  39. Mahasuweerachai, P., & Pangjai, S. (2017). Does piped water improve happiness? A case from Asian Rural Communities. Journal of Happiness Studies. Scholar
  40. Moffitt, R. A. (1996). Identification of causal effects using instrumental variables: Comment. Journal of American Statistical Association,91(434), 462–465.Google Scholar
  41. Monat, A. (1976). Temporal uncertainty, anticipation time, and cognitive coping under threat. Journal of Human Stress,2(2), 32–43.Google Scholar
  42. Monat, A., Averill, J. R., & Lazarus, R. S. (1972). Anticipatory stress and coping reactions under various conditions of uncertainty. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,24(2), 237–253.Google Scholar
  43. North, J. H., & Griffin, C. C. (1993). Water source as a housing characteristic: Hedonic property valuation and willingness to pay for water. Water Resources Research,29(7), 1923–1929.Google Scholar
  44. Pattanayak, S. K., & Pfaff, A. (2009). Behavior, environment, and health in developing countries: Evaluation and valuation. Annual Review of Resource Economics,1, 183–217.Google Scholar
  45. Pattanayak, S. K., Yang, J.-C., Whittington, D., & Kumar, K. C. B. (2005). Coping with unreliable public water supplies: Averting expenditures by households in Kathmandu, Nepal. Water Resources Research,41(2), 1–11.Google Scholar
  46. Raje, D. V., Dhobe, P. S., & Deshpande, A. W. (2002). Consumer’s willingness to pay more for municipal supplied water: A case study. Ecological Economics,42(3), 391–400.Google Scholar
  47. Rodell, M., Famiglietti, J. S., Wiese, D. N., Reager, J. T., Beaudoing, H. K., Landerer, F. W., et al. (2018). Emerging trends in global fresh water availability. Nature. Scholar
  48. Rosiers, F. D., Bolduc, A., & Thériault, M. (1999). Environment and value: Does drinking water quality affect house prices? Journal of Property Investment & Finance,17(5), 444–463.Google Scholar
  49. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology,52, 141–166.Google Scholar
  50. Sadoff, C. W., Hall, J. W., Grey, D., Aerts, J. C. J. H., Ait-Kadi, M., Brown, C., et al. (2015). Securing water, sustaining growth: Report of the GWP/OECD task force on water security and sustainable growth. University of Oxford, UK.Google Scholar
  51. Shah, A., Mullainathan, S., & Shafir, E. (2012). Some consequences of having too little. Science,338(6107), 682–685.Google Scholar
  52. SILT Consultants and Development Research and Training Center. (1999). Consumer survey for project on urban water supply and sanitation rehabilitation. Kathmandu, Nepal.Google Scholar
  53. Steptoe, A., Deaton, A., & Stone, A. (2014). Subjective wellbeing, health, and ageing. The Lancet,385(9968), 640–648.Google Scholar
  54. Suh, E., Diener, E., & Fujita, F. (1996). Events and subjective well-being: Only recent events matter. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,70(5), 1091–1102.Google Scholar
  55. Tandan, P. K. (May 12, 2016). Valley groundwater level drastically low. The Himalayan Times. Retrieved from Accessed 15 June 2017.
  56. Tov, W., & Au, E. W.-M. (2013). Comparing well-being across nations: Conceptual and empirical issues. In S. A. David, I. Boniwell, & A. C. Ayers (Eds.), Oxford handbook of happiness (pp. 448–464). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Udmale, P., Ishidaira, H., Thapa, B. R., & Shakya, N. M. (2016). The status of domestic water demand: Supply deficit in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Water,8(5), 1–9.Google Scholar
  58. Vörösmarty, C., Green, P., Salisbury, J., & Lammers, R. B. (2000). Global water resources: Vulnerability from climate change and population growth. Science,289(5477), 284–288.Google Scholar
  59. Vörösmarty, C., McIntyre, P. B., Gessner, M. O., Dudgeon, D., Prusevich, A., Green, P., et al. (2010). Global threats to human water security and river biodiversity. Nature,467, 555–561.Google Scholar
  60. Welsch, H. (2006). Environment and happiness: Valuation of air pollution using life satisfaction data. Ecological Economics,58(4), 801–813.Google Scholar
  61. Whittington, D., & Pattanayak, S. K. (2015). Water and sanitation economics: Reflections on application to developing economies. In A. Dinar & K. Schwabe (Eds.), Handbook of water economics (pp. 469–499). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  62. Whittington, D., Pattanayak, S., Yang, J.-C., & Kumar, K. C. B. (2002). Household demand for improved piped water services: Evidence from Kathmandu, Nepal. Water Policy,4(6), 531–556.Google Scholar
  63. World Bank. (2016). World development indicators. Retrieved from Accessed 20 Aug 2017.
  64. World Health Organization (WHO). (2002). Reducing risks, promoting health life. Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  65. World Health Organization (WHO), & Department for International Development (DFID). (2009). Vision 2030: The resilience of water supply and sanitation in the face of climate change. Geneva, Switzerland.Google Scholar
  66. Wutich, A., & Ragsdale, K. (2008). Water insecurity and emotional distress: Coping with supply, access, and seasonal variability of water in a bolivian squatter settlement. Social Science and Medicine,67(12), 2116–2125.Google Scholar
  67. Xu, J., Grumbine, R. E., Shrestha, A., Eriksson, M., Yang, X., Wang, Y., et al. (2009). The melting himalayas: Cascading effects of climate change on water, biodiversity, and livelihoods. Conservation Biology,23(3), 520–530.Google Scholar
  68. Zhang, X., Zhang, X., & Chen, X. (2017). Valuing air quality using happiness data: The case of China. Ecological Economics,137, 29–36.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lee Kuan Yew School of Public PolicyNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Central Department of Population StudiesTribhuvan UniversityKathmanduNepal

Personalised recommendations