Virtual launch of the book “Self-supply – filling the gaps in public water supply provision”

This is a blog by Dr Sally Sutton, Dr John Butterworth, and Matthias Saladin. It gives an overview of the virtual launch of the book “Self-supply – filling the gaps in public water supply provision”, which took place on March 25.

Figure 1 On-site water sources are used for many purposes.
Having your own well tends to improve food security and income,
among other benefits.

The first book dedicated to self-supply

The event started with a presentation by the main author, Dr. Sally Sutton, shining short spotlights on specific issues of the book. Among others, she mentioned the scale of self-supply, providing an estimate of more than one billion people drinking water from sources they have accessed or upgraded themselves (not including people investing as groups/cooperatives). Many more share these sources as their main drinking water source and for other purposes as well. The fact that this number is only a rough estimate is another reminder on just how much self-supply has been overlooked over the past decades, at least among donors, international NGOs, academia and most other stakeholders in the sector. After centuries (or millennia) of people providing water by their own means (=self-supply), this is the first book dedicated to the subject, and the event was a great opportunity to draw more attention to it.

Comments from experts of the water sector  

Dr. John Butterworth (IRC) then highlighted examples of self-supply in Zimbabwe and Ethiopia he witnessed first-hand, and how the lack of support systems to self-supply in many places limits the extent and service level people can reach through this mechanism. This was followed by inputs from the authors of the case-studies in Tanzania and in Scotland, and by a series of comments from experts from around the world. We would like to highlight some of the comments made by these experts.

Matt Bower, Operations Team Leader at Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland
Azzika Tanko Yussif, Senior Policy Advisor – AMCOW (African Ministers’ Council on Water)
Patrick Moriarty, Chief Executive Officer – IRC
Louisa Gosling, Chair of the Rural Water Supply Network & Senior Manager – Accountability & Rights, WaterAid
Didier Allely, Member of the GLAAS/ WHO team

The comments were followed by an open-mic session, where participants brought up issues such as universal access, water quality (and the importance of proximity of water for that matter), and the multiple purposes water is used when available on premises. The event concluded with a big thank you to everyone involved, and with many congratulations to the authors on this milestone achievement.

Recording and additional resources 

If you did not have the opportunity to follow the full event, or if you would like to access additional resources related to the book, click on the links below:

  • Link to download (for free) or purchase the book (Practical Action bookstore)
  • Briefings on the book (RWSN, 4 or 8 pages)
  • Recording of the virtual launch event of the book

The organizers of the event and the authors of the book would like to thank IRC for making the online version free to download, and to pay for the production costs. People who are interested to purchase the book in bulk, or to use it for teaching purposes, please contact John Butterworth.

Keep up the momentum 

This event marked a highlight in the history of Self-supply. Having been created as a Theme within RWSN more than 15 years ago, we now observe that (slowly) the topic is attracting more interest and we expect that this process will continue to gain momentum over the next months and years. More than one billion people rely on Self-supply as primary mechanism to access water, and there clearly is a need to support these people to climb the ladder of service levels – be it by upgrading their private water source further or by accessing water by other mechanisms, including piped water networks.

Figure 2 Supportive environment for self-supply