Imagine there is access to improved water sources but people don’t use it? Imagine there is no water supply, what are people going to do?

 Blog on Self-supply by André Olschewski, Skat Foundation

Self-supply are incremental improvements to access and water quality which are financed by own investments. The Self-supply approach and many more interesting topics have been presented and discussed at WEDC Conference 2015 which took place last week in Loughborough, UK.

Apparently people’s needs and aspirations related to water supply and sanitation and hygiene (WASH) do not always match with the level of service provided by interventions of WASH programmes or to put it differently WASH programmes are not always designed and implemented in a way that they satisfy people needs and aspirations.

These are some of the reasons why Self-supply is common practice in many countries and within all segments of the population including the better off. Self-supply is nothing new and it has been and still is an important source of water supply in Western countries such US, France and UK where millions of people rely on Self-supply as single water supply.

In many countries in the South Self-supply allows the more wealthy households to move up the water ladder quickly. Self-supply sources allow households to have water more reliable, more flexible and closer to their homes as public supplies are often unreliable and provide poor level of service. For people in remote rural areas where there will be hardly any further improvement of communal supplies in the near future, there is no other option than Self-supply. In these regions approaches similar to Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and sanitation marketing are needed, with heavy inputs in sensitisation, follow up and technical support at local level, both horizontal and vertical sharing and learning, and maybe even some level of (smart) subsidies such as loan schemes and in kind contribution. Possible technical measures in remote areas might include improvement of traditional wells, installing of simple pumps and household water treatment and safe storage (HWTS) combined with hygiene education.

Donors and governments need to acknowledge that in remote regions and for the 20% of people who still lack access today moving up the ladder up will not be a quick fix if we follow the current approaches. Self-supply is one option to support and improve the level of service for these people.

Self-supply does not take away responsibility from government to provide safe water, but roles and tasks need to be adjusted and progress scheduled realistically. Civil society organisations need to follow up closely to assure that government fulfil their duties including spending sufficient funds also for people living in remote areas.

Training and resouDSC00080rce centres such as SHIPO ( in Tanzania are relevant actors to support development of supply chains in rural areas following a market based approach. However progress in terms of improved level of service will start mostly around growing centres or regions with sufficient potential to sustain a viable supply chain.

For further acceleration of Self-supply in particular remote areas innovative approaches are needed using collaboration with new partners (e.g. social investors or CSR with private companies where there is an opportunity), with other sectors such as agriculture and through coordination and follow up by government. Leadership of government at all levels will be instrumental to allow sustainable progress also in these areas.

Self–supply will continue playing its role as a complementary service delivery model as it addresses demand and aspiration of people who are not served properly. Self-supply has the potential as an important approach to achieve safe water for all if it is combined with hygiene education, water safety plans and HWTS. Government, local private sector and civil society need to assure that Self-supply services will be improved so that it can play its part in achieving the human rights to water.

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