Word from the RWSN Chair: RWSN to put the “Safe” in Safely Managed Drinking Water

by Kelly Ann Naylor, UNICEF, RWSN Chair

Accessibility. Availability. Quality.  These are the three criteria that define a safely managed drinking water service under SDG 6.1.  While accessibility and availability were known challenges for rural water supply services, the scale of the problem of rural water quality was not well quantified, until last year’s WHO/ UNICEF JMP Update Report 2017 put the water quality issue firmly on the map for rural water supply. While 73% of the world’s population drinks water free from contamination bacteriological and chemical contamination, only 55% of the world’s rural population – just over half – drinks safe water. Furthermore, estimates for water quality are only available for 45% of the global population.  The JMP report notes that these data suggest that levels of compliance with drinking water standards are likely to be low in developing countries.

RWSN addresses many aspects of rural drinking water services, but there had not been a specific focus on water quality thus far.  Given the importance of this issue for rural people, RWSN is proud to announce a new partnership with The Water Institute at UNC Chapel Hill to tackle the quality of water in rural water services. According to Professor Jamie Bartram (Director, The Water Institute at UNC), “this partnership will leverage the powerful RWSN platform and The Water Institute’s expertise in water quality and management to bring up to date evidence and methods to the members of the network.  As a new Topic Leader in Mapping and Monitoring, The Water Institute aims to bring evidence and practice closer by facilitating lively discussion and producing practical guidance on Safely Managed Water.”  You can find out more about this new partnership in the section below.

Accessibility and availability of drinking water also remain critical issues for rural populations.  Women and girls are responsible for water collection in 8 out of 10 households with water off premises, and 263 million people use water supplies more than 30 minutes from home.  Likewise, many rural water systems face operation and maintenance challenges that can leave rural populations with long downtimes when spare parts or skilled technicians are not available to make the repair.

RWSN’s Themes and online communities remain active on addressing Accessibility and Availability as part of the new strategy 2018-2023.  The Sustainable Services Theme explores service delivery models to ensure continuity and quality of services. The Sustainable Groundwater Development Theme is concerned with the overall availability of the water resource itself, while the recently-launched topic on “Solar Pumping” allows exchange on advances in solar pumping technologies and field experiences of their use and management.  The Mapping and Monitoring Theme is looking at how to reinforce in-country monitoring systems of water services. The Self-Supply Theme helps define the enabling environment that enables people to invest in and improve their own water systems. And cutting across all topics, the Leave No One Behind Theme emphasizes the need to have an inclusive approach to rural water, taking gender, disability, and marginalised populations into account to fulfil the human right to water.

Next year’s World Water Day theme will be “Leaving No One Behind.” Now more than ever, Rural Water practitioners will be on the forefront to take up this challenge and address these persistent inequalities so that rural populations everywhere can drink water that is safe, available when needed, and accessible close to home.

Responding to UN-Water SDG6 synthesis on water and sanitation

by Sean Furey, Skat Foundation/RWSN Secretariat Director

UN Water, the body that coordinates water issues across the United Nations, is currently running a consultation in its draft report: “SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation”. You can read the report and add give your feedback. Below are some comments that I have posted in the dialogue section:

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You cannot manage what you do not measure; but should you measure what you cannot manage?

Countries have committed to reach SDG 6, providing universal access to their population with safely managed water supply services, with country specific targets. This is a process that governments, as duty bearers, need to manage. Therefore they also need to measure progress in that.
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World Water Day – so what?

by Matthias Saladin, Skat / RWSN Secretariat

Today is World Water Day, but to be honest, this does not mean much to me. Not that I don’t care about water (who doesn’t?) or about the people who cannot just turn on the tap in the morning for their shower, but somehow 22nd March for me is just a day like many others in the year.

A few months ago, many media channels hailed the finding of what are believed to be indications for water on Mars. Whereas this indeed may be an important finding, it also shows how much we all focus our attention on such events: finding water on Mars, inventing the next machine which will solve all the problems of the world (and on the way turning wastewater to drinking water and energy), busily drilling new boreholes and constructing new water supply distribution networks – while not caring about the millions of boreholes drilled and thousands of water supply systems constructed in the past decades which do not function any longer (and all the inventions which somehow did not solve the problem so far). And with some 660 million people without access to improved sources of drinking water on our planet one might indeed ask why finding water – or traces of it – on a different plant would make a difference to our lives.

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“Water for Everyone” joins us at the 7th RWSN Forum

Dear RWSN Members,

With today’s email we are writing to announce the RWSN Forum which is planned for Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire from the 29th November to 1st December 2016, plus 2nd December for field trips and sponsored seminars. The event will comprise plenary and parallel sessions of presentations and interactive workshops as well as presentation of posters, photographs, cartoons and films. The event will be in English and French. Register here.

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Word from the Chair – January 2016

Dear RWSN members and friends, dear colleagues,

2015 was the year that the international community signed off on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Global Goal 6, Target 6.1 is ‘our’ goal: “by 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all”. It is a great goal and an inspiring mission for all of us!

We are all different, all working in different organisations, countries and communities. But we share the passion for rural water, for the technical details of rural water supply, for the implementation of our projects and the cooperation with communities.

More than the passion for our profession we share the hope and belief that we can contribute to a world where no one will be without reliable access to safe water in 2030.

There is no more rewarding and fulfilling mission than to support achieving that. It will not be easy; there is much that needs to be done.

Sometimes we will despair and sometimes we will not know how to proceed, but if we are able to work together, to listen to each other, to respect our very diverse backgrounds, opinions and cultures, than we will make progress. Step by step and day after day.

I wish you all an inspiring 2016, filled with love and wisdom. In the lives with your families and friends and on your professional path towards safe and affordable drinking water for all.

Ton Schouten, Chair