Why getting ‘water affordability’ right matters – and how water diaries can be of help

re-posted from REACH

Dr Sonia Hoque, University of Oxford

Having access to 24/7 potable piped water in the comfort of our dwelling is a luxury that many of us take for granted. In the UK, an annual water and sewerage bill of £400 accounts for about 1% of the annual average household income of £40,000. This ‘safely managed’ water service, defined as having access to an improved source within one’s premises, is well within the widely established global affordability threshold of 3-5% of one’s household income. Estimating payments for water as a percentage of households monthly expenditures may adequately reflect ‘affordability’ in contexts where households have connections to piped water systems or rely on paid sources only.

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Are you responsible for universal, safe, sufficient, affordable & equitable water services?

by Johanna Koehler, University of Oxford, re-posted from REACH

The answer to this question was mixed by the policymakers across all 47 water ministries of the first devolved county governments in Kenya. Political, socioclimatic and spatial factors influence to what degree county policymakers assume responsibility for the water service mandate. A new article published in Geoforum presents novel insights into Kenya’s devolution and water service reform drawing on perceptions by all devolved county water ministries.

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Safe Water for All: REACHing everyone in Bangladesh

by Dr. Rob Hope, University of Oxford, Prof. Mashfiqus Salehin, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and Dara Johnston, UNICEF Bangladesh , re-posted from REACH

A large concrete pipe belches untreated sewage into the Buriganga River in Dhaka, whilst men wade through the water to shift aggregate to construct more buildings for more people. The riverbanks team with life and colour as hospital bed sheets dry after being recently washed in the river, bamboo poles float-in-waiting for the next tower block and mountains of fresh fruit lie ready for sale in nearby markets while countless children play without a care in the water.

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Grown-up finance for the rural water sector

The challenge of achieving the SDGs is upon us and with this concrete and short-term objective, the sector is finally taking the issue of financing more seriously, which is a very good thing but not before time. Whilst a few years ago finance was the privilege of a selected few, everyone is now talking about it; however, whether this is a case of better late than never still needs to be proven.

by , re-posted from Aguaconsult with thanks

The challenge of achieving the SDGs is upon us and with this concrete and short-term objective, the sector is finally taking the issue of financing more seriously, which is a very good thing but not before time. Whilst a few years ago finance was the privilege of a selected few, everyone is now talking about it; however, whether this is a case of better late than never still needs to be proven.

Last week, I chaired with interest the RWSN webinars on “grown up finance” for rural water supply. Kelly-Ann Naylor (UNICEF), Catarina Fonseca (IRC WASH), Sophie Trémolet and John Ikeda (World Bank) and Johanna Koehler (Oxford University) gave great presentations and here are my few take aways from the discussions:

The magnitude of the challenge is huge and greater than we probably think. We often hear about the figure of USD 114 billion to achieve SDGs 6.1 and 6.2, but this is only part of the story. This figure covers investment and maintenance of new services, but excludes the crucial maintenance of existing services and the broader sector support.

We know there is a huge funding gap and the current finance model will not fit the bill. Official Development Assistance (ODA) has not increased as much for WASH as it has for other sectors and concessional finance as well as domestic investments only accounts for a fraction of the required investments. The sector has the potential to attract other sources of finance, but we need to take a few steps.

We need to have an honest conversation about the exact magnitude of the challenge at national and district level to support planning and budgeting. This is taking place at national level as part of the SWA process in some countries, but only partially at district level. More robust data on service levels as well as cost of services, which are currently insufficiently researched, can help us in this direction, but we need to move faster.

We need to get better at understanding budgeting processes and supporting strategic multi-year budgeting both at national and district levels. Most countries are not very good at this at the moment and it has to change.

We need to advocate beyond the WASH sector and target more important political decision makers – Ministries of Finance and even the office of the president) to prioritise domestic investment in WASH and increase it through a larger tax base and increasing tariffs. Again, evidence will take us a long way in bringing politicians round the table.

We need to look at other sources of finance, particularly private finance to complement existing funding sources. Making the sector more attractive to private investment will be a necessary first step, but this will hinge on Governments playing a crucial role in strengthening the enabling environment and de-risking the sector. ODA, currently crowding the sector will need to focus on the riskiest segments and leave space for private investments to come in (e.g. stop lending to urban utilities and focus on rural water supply). Assessing sector entities’ performance and risk profile will be a necessary first step.

We need to start experimenting with innovative “blended finance” models, learn from them and adjust. Examples are already out there from Benin, where subsidised concessions are being tested; but also from Kenya and other countries.

After decades of ODA dependency, the WASH sector is slowly opening up to the real world of finance to reach its ambitious targets. This means being transparent and accountable, providing evidence of performance and better understanding what will incentivize the commercial finance world. A huge task ahead and surely a dramatic and positive change in culture!

Photo: Inspecting community-level financial records in Tajikistan (S. Furey)

Why is there a handpump in the car park?

Invitation to launch event 17 October at 5-6pm

About the Smart Handpump

Delivering reliable drinking water to millions of rural people in Africa and Asia is an elusive and enduring global goal. A systematic information deficit on the performance of and demand for infrastructure investments limits policy design and development outcomes.

Since 2010, the ‘Smart Handpump’ project has been exploring new technologies, methods and models to understand and respond to this challenge. A mobile-enabled data transmitter provides foundational data on hourly water usage and failure events which has enabled the establishment of performance-based maintenance companies in Kenya that are improving handpump reliability by an order of magnitude.

The research is a collaboration between the School of Geography and the Environment and the Department of Engineering Science with a range of partners including government, international bodies such as UNICEF and the private sector. New research involves modelling the accelerometry data from the handpumps to predict aquifer depth.
We invite you to test the Smart Handpump in the car park and debate how the ‘accidental infrastructure’ of rural handpumps can spark bolder initiatives to deliver water security for millions of poor people in Africa and Asia.

17 October 2016 at 5-6pm
Hertbertson Room and the Car Park, School of Geography and the Environment, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX4 1LY

#RWSN @ #WWW : the presentations

RWSN co-convened two sessions at last week’s SIWI World Water Week in Stockholm and presentations are available to download:

WASHoholic Anonymous – Confessions of Failure and how to Reform

All presentations: http://programme.worldwaterweek.org/sites/default/files/panzerbeiter_lt_1400.pdf

Build and Run to Last: Advances in Rural Water Services

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Funding opportunity – Water Security

Happy New Year!

Let’s start 2016 with a bang:  a call for expressions of interest (EOIs) for ‘Catalyst Grants’ which are commissioned under the REACH programme.

Dr Katrina Charles explains the REACH Catalyst Grant process
Dr Katrina Charles explains the REACH Catalyst Grant process (click picture to see YouTube video)

These Catalyst Grants of between £10,000 and £50,000 each are designed to explore novel approaches to water security and poverty research and policy that complement the core research conducted by the REACH programme. These grants will promote the co-production of effective tools and technologies relevant for and adopted by policy makers, practitioners, civil society organisations and enterprise.

There are three themes for this call:

  1. Water security for vulnerable people
  2. Water security risk science
  3. Water security partnerships.

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Handpump standardisation in sub-Saharan Africa: Seeking a champion

by Jess MacArthur, IDE Bangladesh

Download now
Download the new RWSN Publication “Handpump standardisation in sub-Saharan African”

As a millennial, I have to admit: I really enjoy technology and innovation. I love to read innovation blogs and to dissect innovation theory. So just over two years ago as I began researching how innovation intersects development in the world of handpumps, I felt a bit stumped. An estimated 184 million people in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) today rely on handpumps for their domestic water and many of these use designs that were developed before I was born. Yes, that makes me young and maybe that make you feel old. But mostly, it made me sit back and think. Is this beneficial or is this concerning? At the time I was helping Water4 navigate the policy-sphere around new handpump integration.  I wanted to know why certain handpumps have more dominance in certain areas and how innovators can pilot in the sector with both evolutionary and revolutionary designs.

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