What does it take to sustain sustainability?

water services that last

As argued several times in this blog, post-construction support is one of the keys to sustainability of rural water supplies. One element of post-construction support is monitoring of aspects such as service levels and the performance of service providers, through which the support providers can better target their assistance. The last few years have seen a boom in efforts to set up information and monitoring systems of rural water supplies in many countries. Some were in first instance a one-off mapping exercise of all water points in a country; others were developed with the aim of regular updating for ongoing monitoring purposes. Particularly, cellphone technology has been instrumental in speeding up this process, as it is used in systems like FLOW (Field Level Operations Watch). A key question that comes back in the discussions on the topic (see for example the excellent discussion on the Rural Water Supply Network’s

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Monitoring, learning and adaptation – important lessons from Uganda for development partners

water services that last

By Harold Lockwood  –  

Yesterday I read an excellent report on how the water sector in Uganda has managed to build a truly national monitoring system. The report is written by the Rural Water Supply Network – RWSN – and so naturally focuses on the rural sector as it looks back at the detailed steps in the development of a framework which has allowed the sector in Uganda to be able to learn about its own performance and take steps to improve how it functions. It really ‘tells the story’ of what it takes to build such a monitoring system and gives insight into one of the most comprehensive monitoring systems that I know of in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Realities of water well drilling in Africa: e-discussion highlights so far

RWSN is currently hosting a 3 week discussion on ‘Cost Effective Boreholes’ as part of our Sustainable Groundwater Development Theme.  Here are some highlights so far:

It is very interesting to read the inputs so far from Kenya, Zambia, Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Uganda.

From the discussions so far, it seems that the Kenya and Ethiopia have established regulatory frameworks for water well drilling (thanks Chrispine and Tesfaye). In the Kenyan case, government regulation, which is limited by capacity constraints is augmented by the monitoring of activities by the drillers association. It will be interesting to hear more on this from Chrispine and others in Kenya. In contrast Zambia (thanks Daniel) lacks any regulation with respect to groundwater resources. There is thus no registration of boreholes in the country whatsoever and even drilling records must not be collected. Although a water resources management act was passed in Zambia 2011 it still awaits launch and implementation. Perhaps there are also others with ideas for Zambia. In Sudan, we hear from Harm Bouta about a very fragmented drilling sector with no strict regulations in place, but that there are other initiatives taking place in Sudan from which we could learn more.
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How did you wash up doing WASH?

Rain from the skirts of Hurricane Mitch lashed the ancient Landcruiser as it hurtled along the dark tar snake of the Pan American Highway.  Cans of burning oil belched out black smoke and orange flames in a line along the carriageway to demarcate roadworks. Sodden policemen waved us on as workers tried to salvage their equipment from the storm. I had arrived in Guatemala.

A steep learning curve in Guatemala (c) Skat

A few days later I was standing by the shore of Lake Atitlan, in the town of San Lucas Toliman.  I was staring down a large diameter well choked with electric cables and rising mains. Off to my a left a team of community members were digging a trench for a new 4″ PVC pipeline that would snake up the ridge behind the town and down to the scattered finca (coffee plantation) hamlets on the other side.

The foreman turned to me and asked whether their pump would have enough power to get water up to their people living on the side on the volcano. All eyes were on me. Not hostile, not friendly, just expecting an answer from this young gringo ‘expert’.  I was gripped by fear. My stomach cramped, my heart-rate went through the roof.  This wasn’t a university field trip, my career as a WASH professional had just begun.

How do I start a career in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)?
Continue reading “How did you wash up doing WASH?”

RWSN Discusses Water Point Mapping

RWSN is hosting two lively discussions about water point mapping (wpm), one on the RWSN LinkedIn group, and the other at the RWSN Dgroups space.   This blog provides a summary of the LinkedIn discussion.

For those of you who are completely new to water point mapping, the next section gives a basic introduction  (adapted from Mobile Phones and WPM).

Introduction to Water Point Mapping

Chadian women revert to drawing water manually, after pulley system fails. (c) Jean Claude Balcet

•     Water point mapping is essentially about creating databases, or inventories, of individual water points (standposts, handpumps, etc.)  The information can then be used for a variety of purposes: investment planning, advocacy, analysis of various sorts (e.g., most common reasons for non-functioning water points), and so forth.  The data on physical locations can be used to create maps of water points, but all kinds of additional visualization and analysis (tables, charts, statistics, etc.) are possible .

•     Technology has revolutionized water point mapping, and field surveys generally.  Gone are the days of paper questionnaires, manual data entry, and monopoly control over how and when the data are analyzed.  Instead, the data collector enters the information on a mobile phone, from which it can be uploaded into a database on the Internet, and analyzed by users located anywhere with Internet access, using software that makes it easy to analyze and present the data in a variety of ways.

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Boreholes and trees – why drilling supervision matters

by Professor Richard Carter, Chair of RWSN [1]

About 1 billion people in rural areas rely on boreholes (mostly fitted with handpumps) for their water supply. Another 300 million in small towns and cities get their domestic water from boreholes.[2]

Image
(c) RWSN/Skat

What is a borehole?

Someone [3] once defined a tree as “a big plant with a stick up the middle”. Using this analogy, a borehole is “a long thin hole in the ground which produces water”. But of course just as trees are a bit more complicated than the definition would suggest, and just as trees come in all shapes and sizes, so too boreholes are more than ‘long thin holes …’. No two boreholes are quite the same.

If I wish to plant a tree and get fruit or timber from it sometime in the future, then I need to choose the right species, plant it in the right place, and nurture it until it becomes established. So too if I want to construct a borehole which will deliver clean water over both the short-term and the long-term, I need to choose its location with care, design it properly and ensure that it is drilled and finished straight and true.

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A Word from the Chair: Sustainable water services for everyone

ImageThis 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 [1],[2] both highlight two serious imbalances in the way the world addresses WASH

Continue reading “A Word from the Chair: Sustainable water services for everyone”

Welcome to the RWSN blog!

According to the UN, at least 740 million people worldwide do not have access to improved water source, and four out of give of those people live in rural areas.

The purpose of this blog is to stimulate debate on this important topic and what can be done to tackle this critical challenge.