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 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.
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
• 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.
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.
What is a borehole?
Someone  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.
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