Folder Issue3

October 2013




Trends in rural water supply: Towards a service delivery approach

Patrick Moriarty
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, The Hague, the Netherlands;
Stef Smits
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, The Hague, the Netherlands;
John Butterworth
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, The Hague, the Netherlands;
Richard Franceys
Cranfield University, Cranfield, Bedfordshire, 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



How can INGOs help promote sustainable rural water services? An analysis of WaterAid’s approach to supporting local governments in Mali 

Stephen Jones 
Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, UK;

ABSTRACT: This paper examines how the international NGO WaterAid supports decentralised local governments in Mali to fulfil their role of service authorities within a service delivery approach for rural water services. WaterAid provides capacity support to local governments by creating and financing municipal WASH Technical Units that, in turn, provide direct support to community management of rural water supply. The paper compares this model to another approach for supporting rural water service providers in Mali in terms of the activities, scale and costs of direct support provided through each model.

The paper finds that the model of WASH Technical Units promoted by WaterAid provides a more comprehensive set of support activities than the alternative approach suggested in national policy. The costs of the Technical Units are within international benchmarks for the expenditure on direct support suggested to be necessary for basic sustainable rural water services, but it is not yet clear how local governments in Mali can finance the costs of such an approach in the long term. Therefore, greater debate is needed in the national water sector about which aspects of support to rural water service providers are most important and what combination of actors can provide and finance this support.

KEYWORDS: Rural water supply, service delivery, direct support, life-cycle costs approach, WaterAid , Mali




From adopt-a-project to permanent services: The evolution of Water For People’s approach to rural water supply in Bolivia 

Kate Fogelberg 
Water For People, Arequipa, Peru;

ABSTRACT: The dominant paradigm in rural water provision in Bolivia has focused on the provision of infrastructure, whether by government agencies or international cooperation groups. However, the investment in infrastructure has led neither to universal access for all Bolivians nor to consistently high levels of services for those who do have access to a water system. This paper will describe the transition of one international non-profit organisation, Water For People, from supporting dispersed water projects throughout the country towards targeted support of water services at the municipal level, aiming to support permanent universal services. The institutional evolution – including changes in governance, implementation strategy, donor base, and indicators of success – that allowed field programmes to shift from projects to services provides the context for the change of approach in Bolivia. A discussion of the various aspects that have changed in the organisation’s operations in seven municipalities in Bolivia, from the scale of intervention, to municipal-wide planning information and tools, to support to service providers and service authorities, and an increased focus on post-construction monitoring, demonstrates how the Everyone, Forever approach is resulting in a more service- delivery-oriented approach in Bolivia.

KEYWORDS: Rural water supply, non-governmental organisation, service delivery, sustainability, Bolivia




The impact of support to community-based rural water service providers: Evidence from Colombia 

Stef Smits 
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, The Hague, the Netherlands; 
Johnny Rojas 
Instituto Cinara, Universidad del Valle, Colombia; 
Paola Tamayo 
Instituto Cinara, Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia;

ABSTRACT: There is widespread recognition of the importance of support to community-based water service providers for sustainability of rural water supplies. However, there is little quantitative evidence to back this claim and a very limited understanding about the characteristics of support agents that are most significant in providing effective support.This paper presents the results of a study on support to service providers in Colombia, including a quantitative analysis of the impact of different support agents on service levels, performance of service providers and functionality of infrastructure assets. The methodology included: 1) characterisation of seven different support agents and their performance, 2) analysis of service levels, performance of service providers and functionality of infrastructure for 29 service providers that received structured support, and 3) analysis of the same factors for 11 service providers that did not receive structured support.Nearly all service providers in this study were found to receive some type of support, but sometimes this was unstructured and irregular. The providers receiving support in a structured and frequent manner performed better against a list of expected functions than the ones receiving ad hoc support. However, there was no clear effect found between support and the level of service that users received or the asset status. The paper also concludes that there is scope to improve the effectiveness of support agents, with key factors identified which explain that effectiveness; these key factors are the frequency of support, the institutional capacity of the support agent and the targeting of support to different types of communities.

KEYWORDS: Rural water supply, recurrent support, community-based management, service providers, support agents




Self-supply as a complementary water services delivery model in Ethiopia 

John Butterworth 
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, The Hague, the Netherlands; 
Sally Sutton 
SWL Consultants, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, United Kingdom; 
Lemessa Mekonta 
SRS Consultants PLC, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia;

ABSTRACT: Self-supply, where households invest to develop their own easily-accessible water supplies, is identified as an alternative service delivery model that is potentially complementary to more highly subsidised community-level provision. The approach is widespread in Ethiopia with family wells bringing additional benefits that are in line with wider government objectives, such as supporting small-scale irrigation. However, two recent studies show the current performance of traditional or family wells to be far below potential with most sources providing unsafe water in the absence of adequate protection. Wider formal recognition of Self-supply in policy and the development of the government-led Self-supply Acceleration Programme (SSAP) aim to extend access and improve aspects of performance including water quality. However, a key finding of the paper is that successful uptake of this programme requires a transformation in the attitudes of donor agencies and the roles of government regional- and woreda-level staff, amongst others. Necessary shifts in mindsets and revision of planning mechanisms, as well as the day-to-day operational support requirements, represent a challenge for an under-resourced sector. Other household-focused development interventions such as Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and Household Water Treatment and Storage (HWTS) face some similar challenges, so the processes for the development of one approach could help in the scaling up of all.

KEYWORDS: Self-supply, groundwater, water supply, water quality, Ethiopia




Unsubsidised self-supply in eastern Madagascar 

Michael F. MacCarthy 
Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, USA; 
Jonathan E. Annis 
WASHplus, CARE International, Washington, DC, USA; 
James R. Mihelcic 
Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, USA;

ABSTRACT: Self-supply is widely reported across various contexts, filling gaps left by other forms of water supply provision. This study assesses mature and unsubsidised Self-supply markets in an urban context in Madagascar. Locally manufactured drilling and pumping technologies are widely provided by the local private sector, enabling households to access shallow groundwater. The market for Pitcher Pump systems (suction pumps fitted onto hand-driven boreholes) has developed over several decades, reaching a level of maturity and scale. In the eastern port city of Tamatave, 9000 of these systems are estimated to be in use and Self-supply constitutes a primary domestic water source for the majority of the city’s 280,000 inhabitants. The market is supplied by more than 50 small businesses that manufacture and install the systems at lower cost (US$35-100) than a connection to the piped water supply system. Mixed methods are used to assess the performance of the Pitcher Pump system and the characteristics of the market. Discussion includes a description of the manufacturing process and sales network that supply Pitcher Pump systems, environmental health concerns related to water quality, pump performance, and system management. In a context where urban piped water supplies are unlikely to be accessible to all anytime soon, recommendations are made for further research and potential technology developments to improve the performance of Self-supply.

KEYWORDS: Low-cost technologies, sub-Saharan Africa, handpump, manual drilling, groundwater, lead (Pb), water supply, private sector




A qualitative analysis of rural water sector policy documents 

Anna Le Gouais 
Aguaconsult, Wivenhoe, Essex, UK; 
Elise Wach 
Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, Sussex, UK;

ABSTRACT: This paper summarises the findings of a review of policy and strategy documents published circa 2008 by a diverse set of eleven development partners in the rural water sector. It was carried out as part of the Triple-S (Sustainable Services at Scale) Initiative using a Qualitative Document Analysis (QDA) approach to assess the extent to which the reviewed documents align with a set of ‘building blocks’ identified by Triple-S as integral to ensuring sustainable service delivery in the rural water sector. Based on the reviewed documents, the policies of the development partners included in this analysis demonstrate a clear commitment towards a number of important elements believed to be necessary for sustainable service delivery including learning and adaptive management, coordination and collaboration, capacity support for local government, and harmonisation and alignment. However, the analysis of the policy documents results in low scores for planning for asset management (i.e. renewals) and recognition and promotion of alternative service delivery options to community management (e.g. self- supply of, or delegated management to, the private sector). Thus, this study indicates that these areas, considered by Triple-S to be crucial for improving sustainability, are relatively neglected and merit more attention in the policies of organisations.

KEYWORDS: Rural water, sustainability, policy, qualitative document analysis




Rethinking existing approaches to water security in remote communities: An analysis of two drinking water systems in Nunatsiavut, Labrador, Canada 

Christina Goldhar 
Nain Research Centre, Nunatsiavut Government, Nain, NL, Canada; 
Trevor Bell 
Memorial University, St. John’s, NL, Canada; 
Johanna Wolf 
Royal Roads University, Victoria, BC, Canada;

ABSTRACT: This paper introduces an approach to understanding water security in remote communities that emphasises drinking water access, availability, quality, and preference, presenting exploratory findings from Rigolet and Nain, located within the Inuit Settlement Region of Nunatsiavut, eastern Subarctic Canada. Individual and household interviews numbering 121 and 13 key informant interviews were conducted in 2009 and 2010. Interview findings were analysed with results from participant observation, a review of municipal water system records and secondary sources. Results reveal restricted access to a sufficient quantity of desirable, clean, drinking water for some residents, despite the existence of municipal water systems in both communities. Drinking water sources available to residents include tap water, store-bought water and water gathered from running streams, lakes and ice melt. Drinking water preferences and risk perceptions indicate these sources are regarded as distinct by study participants. 81% of respondents prefer water gathered from the land over other alternatives and 22% primarily consume this source while in the community. These findings must be understood within the context of drinking water system attributes and the geographies of people and place characterising the region.

KEYWORDS: Inuit, community drinking water system, perceptions of drinking water, drinking water preferences, water security, Arctic




Perspectives of complexity in water governance: Local experiences of global trends 

Michele-Lee Moore 
Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada;

ABSTRACT: Those responsible for water governance face great complexity. However, the conceptualisations of what comprises that complexity have been broad and inconsistent. When efforts are made to address the complexity in water governance, it is unclear whether the problems and the related solutions will be understood across the actors and institutions involved. This paper provides a review of the literature focused on global water governance to discern core themes that commonly characterise discussions of complexity. It then considers how the consequences of these issues are manifested at the local scale through an examination of empirical research of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the Prachinburi River Basin Committee. The results demonstrate that a history of a technical, depoliticised discourse is often perceived to contribute to complexity. The consequence is that when a severe ecological disturbance occurs within a river basin with poorly understood causes, few tools are available to support river basin organisations to address the political nature of these challenges. Additionally, a lack of clear authority structures has been recognised globally, but locally this can contribute to conflict amongst the 'governors' of water. Finally, a range of contested definitions and governance frameworks exists that contributes to complexity, but confronting the diversity of perspectives can lead to ethical dilemmas given that the decisions will affect the health and livelihoods of basin communities.

KEYWORDS: Global, local, water governance, Murray-Darling, Prachinburi, complexity



The practices and politics of making policy: Irrigation management transfer in Mexico;

Edwin Rap
International Water Management Institute, Cairo, Egypt;
Philippus Wester
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal;, and Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands;

ABSTRACT: This article argues that policy making is an interactive and ongoing process that transcends the spatio-temporal boundaries drawn by a linear, rational or instrumental model of policy. We construct this argument by analysing the making of the Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT) policy in Mexico in the early 1990s, focusing on different episodes of its re-emergence, standardisation, and acceleration. During this period a standardised policy package was developed, consisting of a set of specific policy technologies to effect the transfer to Water Users’ Associations (WUAs). These technologies were assembled in response to geographically dispersed trials of strength: experiments, consultations and clashes in the field, and negotiations at the national and international level. A newly installed public water authority increasingly succeeded in coordinating the convergence and accumulation of dispersed experiences and ideas on how to make the transfer work. Our analysis shows how this composite package of policy technologies worked to include a network of support and to exclude opposition at different levels, while at the same time stabilising an interpretation of policy-related events. In this way the policy gathered momentum and was 'made to succeed'.

KEYWORDS: Policy making, Irrigation Management Transfer, politics, bureaucracy, Water Users’ Associations, Mexico