by Delgollage Senevirathne, Assistant General Manager (Sociologist) at the National Water Supply & Drainage Board (NWSDB), Sri Lanka.
(6) Awareness of aquifer as a finite resource
Groundwater comes from two main sources. When it rains water seeps down through the soil until it reaches an aquifer. These aquifers may also be in contact with rivers and streams allowing these surface waters to ‘drain’ into the aquifer. In some places these aquifers can also supply water to rivers and streams. Groundwater is a finite resource and must be replenished or else it will eventually be depleted.
An aquifer is a body of water-saturated sediment or rock in which water can move readily. Water in the ground travels slowly through pores or fractures depending on the type of sediment or rock material that the aquifer is made of.
In 2012 we learned the exciting news that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for drinking water access had been met, nearly 3 years ahead of schedule. Yet an important question still looms large: What will it take to ensure that those who have gained access continue to enjoy their water services well into the future? And how will sustainable water services be extended to the remaining unserved?
I’ve spent the last week in the Mopti Region of northern Mali supporting a USAID/WASHplus WASH & Nutrition initiative led by CARE. While behavior change communication related to household- and community-level sanitation, hygiene, and infant nutrition practices is the primary focus of the project, a small sum of funds is dedicated to rehabilitating community water supplies.
The conditions in Mali, as in much of the Sahel, have attracted a plethora of international NGOs, foundations, and do-gooders of every size and intention; increasing access to safe water is a focal point of many of their interventions. The functionality of rural water supplies in Mopti is difficult to ascertain. A number of my colleagues agree that the database of water points maintained by the regional office of the Ministry of Water includes less than 50 percent of the water points existing in the countryside.
This is great news and fantastic to see USAID adopting and promoting this approach which aims to really track and better understand the underlying causes of poor sustainability in the WASH sector. Sustaining WASH services is complex and dependent not only the hardware (the pumps, latrines and pipes), but also a range of the so-called software elements, for example reliable management entities, long-term external support and monitoring, adequate financing and so on. Measuring coverage is one thing, looking at functionality is also a useful proxy, but if we really want to know where the pinch-points are and how something so seemingly simple as water flowing out of a tap can fall down, it requires a comprehensive and powerful tool.
Sagar is an island at the mouth of the river Ganges where it meets the Bay of Bengal. Every year in January, about half a million pilgrims visit the island to worship at the holy Ganges. The hundreds of mobile toilet units standing on the empty festival terrain during the rest of the year are witness to the island’s authority’s efforts to ensure that the pilgrim’s stay on the island is as comfortable, hygienic and safe as possible. But the authorities also don’t forget about the 200.000 permanent inhabitants when it comes to sanitation. Together with the NGO Water For People (WFP) and other partners, it seeks to achieve full coverage in sanitation and water supply in the next few years.
Two weeks ago, the “management and support” working group of the RWSN had its first meeting. This meeting focused specifically on management models and support arrangements for piped water supply in small towns. As rural settlements become bigger, a shift is made from point sources – like boreholes with handpumps – to piped systems. This trend has happened in Latin America and parts of Asia, and is now about to start in Africa and South Asia as well, as argued in the background paper by Marieke Adank. And as there is a shift to piped systems, users may actually want to shift towards higher levels of service. The question is whether that is not a bad idea?
2nd UN-Water GLAAS Evaluation Meeting in Bern 2nd and 3rd October 2012
The UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-water (GLAAS) monitors the inputs, and processes and their outputs (e.g. policies, investments, human resources) that influence the provision and sustainability of drinking-water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) systems and services. Following publication of a proof-of-concept report in 2008, GLAAS published two full reports in 2010 and 2012 – the latter covering 74 countries and 24 external support agencies. GLAAS is generally acknowledged as having gained itself a specific niche within the global WASH monitoring landscape.
It is an important tool for the SDC Global program Water initiatives as it is part of an important and logical sequence of work/partnership which combine the global water and sanitation data acquisition (Joint Monitoring Program – JMP), the data analyze/assessment (GLAAS) and the sector global advocacy (Sanitation and Water for All – SWA).
1) It is a low cost and high quality global monitoring product and process.
2) It allows us to unify forces to lobby for a water goal in the Post 2015 goals.
3) Water Quality should be included in the future water goals and reported by JMP and GLAAS.
4) We should strengthen alignment with national monitoring systems.
5) We need to improve link with others global, regional and national monitoring systems.
6) The presence of new actors (from emerging states) should be reinforced in the future.
Driven amongst others by the mobile phone applications, more and more statistics are becoming available on the state of water services. These go well beyond the coverage data we were used to in the JMP reports (and which this year gave us some reason to be mildly optimistic). The new stats provide more insight into the functionality of infrastructure and the level of service being provided. And these are saddening. Just have a glimpse at the overview of these sad stats made by Improve International. Though the specific figures differ from one country to another, but the order of magnitude of non-functional water points is around 30%, with another 10-20% being partial functional. Of the ones that are functional only a small percentage provides services that meet standards. Going a level deeper, one can find more details, such as the percentage of water committees that perform according to…