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Trends in rural water supply: Towards a service delivery approach

Patrick Moriarty
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, The Hague, the Netherlands; moriarty@irc.nl
Stef Smits
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, The Hague, the Netherlands; smits@irc.nl
John Butterworth
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, The Hague, the Netherlands; butterworth@irc.nl
Richard Franceys
Cranfield University, Cranfield, Bedfordshire, UK; r.w.a.franceys@cranfield.ac.uk

ABSTRACT: Behind headline successes in providing first-time access to water lie a number of pressing challenges to the dominant approach to rural water supply in developing countries, namely community management following a demand-responsive approach. These challenges manifest themselves in poor performance of service providers, high rates of hardware failure, and very low levels of service.

The papers in this special issue argue that tackling these challenges requires a shift in emphasis in rural water supply in developing countries: away from a de-facto focus on the provision of hardware for first-time access towards the proper use of installed hardware as the basis for universal access to rural water services. The outline of the main actions required to achieve this shift are becoming clearer. Chief amongst these are the professionalisation of community management and/or provision of direct support to community service providers; adoption of a wider range of service delivery models than community management alone; and addressing the sustainable financing of all costs with a particular focus on financing capital maintenance (asset management) and direct support costs. This introductory paper provides an overview of these issues and a guide to the other articles, which demonstrate these points.

KEYWORDS: Water service delivery, life-cycle costing, asset management, community management