This network of rural water professionals would never argue that services for urban populations are unimportant, or that sanitation and hygiene are less necessary to human health and dignity than water supply. All people regardless of location need both water supply and sanitation services, and to practise good hygiene – in other words urban and rural WASH.
However two global monitoring reports published this year , both highlight two serious imbalances in the way the world addresses WASH
First, despite the fact that 5 out of 6 of those not yet served with an improved water supply live in rural locations, three-quarters of investment in the countries which responded to the GLAAS survey was on urban services. This is nothing new, but the continuing urban bias continues to perpetuate the invisibility of the rural poor – out of sight, out of mind.
Second, we know that ‘keeping the water flowing’ costs much more than ‘getting it going’ in the first place. Keeping a service working over time may cost 3-4 times as much (in total) as the initial capital investment – and yet, in the countries which responded to this year’s GLAAS survey twice as much was invested in capital works than in post-construction efforts. Without a re-dressing of this imbalance, it will become ever more difficult to increase coverage as previously constructed systems fall out of use.
At a time when precious funds need to be targeted for maximum effectiveness, this network should be advocating increasingly strongly for investments to be appropriately focused to achieve sustainable service which include everyone.
Professor Richard Carter, Head of Technical Support at WaterAid
Chair of the Rural Water Supply Network
 Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) (2012) Progress on drinking water and sanitation, 2012 update. UNICEF / World Health Organisation http://www.wssinfo.org/fileadmin/user_upload/resources/JMP-report-2012-en.pdf
 Global analysis and assessment of sanitation and drinking water (GLAAS) (2012): the challenge of extending and sustaining services. World Health Organisation http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/glaas_report_2012/en/index.html