Objective: To identify and evaluate inequities in access to drinking water services as reflected in household per capita expenditure on water, and to determine what proportion of household expenditures is spent on water in 11 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.\n\nMethods: Using data from multi-purpose household surveys (such as the Living Standards Measurement Survey Study) conducted in 11 countries from 1995 to 1999, the availability of drinking water as well as total and per capita household expenditures on drinking water were analyzed in light of socioeconomic parameters, such as urban vs. rural setting, household income, type and regularity of water supply service, time spent obtaining water in homes not served by running water, and type of water-purifying treatment, if any.\n\nResults: Access to drinking water as well as total and per capita household expenditures on drinking water show an association with household income, economic conditions of the household, and location. The access of the rural population to drinking water services is much more restricted than that of the urban population for groups having similar income. The proportion of families having a household water supply system is comparable in the higher-income rural population and the lower-income urban population. Families without a household water supply system spend a considerable amount of time getting water. For poorer families, this implies additional costs. Low-income families that lack a household water supply spend as much money on water as do families with better income. Access to household water disinfection methods is very limited among poor families due to its relatively high cost, which results in poorer drinking water quality in the lower-income population.\n\nConclusions: Multi-purpose household surveys conducted from the consumer's point of view are important tools for research on equity and health, especially when studying unequal access to, use of, and expenditures on drinking water. It is recommended that countries improve their portion of the surveys that deals with water and sanitation in order to facilitate national health assessments and the establishment of more equitable subsidy programs.