Resilience of Water Supply in Practice: Experiences from the Frontline

Guest blog by Leslie Morris-Iverson and St. John Day

The protracted Covid-19 pandemic has restricted international travel, cancelled or shifted international conferences on-line and confined many of us to working from home. These changes, along with an awareness of growing and intersecting threats to water supply means it is increasingly important to hear the voices and learn from the experiences of practitioners who continue to work on the frontline. We have edited a book “Resilience of Water Supply in Practice: Experiences from the Frontline” (published at the end of 2021) to help us listen to those voices, people working for utilities, contractors, catchment organizations, or non-governmental authorities, on how they are implementing to address these increasingly complex resilience challenges.

Many service providers are striving to improve the resilience of their water supply services in some very challenging environments. This refers to improving or maintaining service levels, so they can resist, recover from and withstand multiple growing pressures and shocks, such as increased water demands, aged and crumbling infrastructure, environmental pressures (including climate change) and natural or human-made disasters.

In the book, we highlight there needs to be renewed focus on strengthening resilience to raise service levels and improve professional standards of service. If service levels decline or systems breakdown there will be little prospect of getting at least basic services to people, let alone the more ambitious target of safe, adequate and affordable water supply services for all.

To improve resilience, service providers need to imagine what a resilient water supply service will look like. They should conceptualise the key factors that underpin resilience and introduce approaches that will strengthen each component. They also need to ensure inter-linkages between these component parts. This requires detailed analysis of water resources, high quality infrastructure – fit for the local context, strong management arrangements and an adaptive or iterative approach so that learning, adjustments and improvements are continuous. This means decision-makers and service providers should be concerned with wider systems strengthening work, but at the same time they must also identify immediate actions and areas where they can achieve maximum impact.  This is often referred to as ‘doing the right thing and doing it right’.

In the book we present several case studies from different contexts. It consists of eight different examples, contributed by different authors, all of whom are highly experienced in water supply service provision. Each case study brings a different context, challenge, experiences and some practical findings and conclusions. Examples range from: managing water demand in the United Kingdom, to the Cape Town water crisis, to rebuilding water supply services in Freetown; from the challenges of rural water supply in Eastern Sudan, Tajikistan and Iraq, to improving service levels in post emergency situations.

This network is devoted to the important issue of rural water supply. Over the past decade or so, there have been numerous studies highlighting underperformance and shortcomings in community-based maintenance approaches. In this book many of the challenges faced by utilities are highlighted, and, in our opinion, much work is required to improve service levels and increase customer satisfaction. One of the main challenges, as demonstrated in the Sierra Leone case study, is how to strengthen resilience in a systematic manner, when development projects are short term, projects are pre-conceived and often fail to address the most critical problems the utility is facing.

One of the main conclusions from the book is that resilience is being improved through an iterative and adaptive approach. Frontline operators often need to start by ‘doing what they can with what they have,’ while setting realistic and achievable targets. There must be a strong focus on ensuring interventions are relevant to the local context and implemented professionally to prevent reworking and excessive costs. In editing the book, the importance listening to service providers who really are on the frontline – has become ever apparent.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed to this book being published and for assisting in making the book open access.

Water, Spillovers and Free Riding: the economics of pump functionality in Tanzania

by Rossa O’Keeffe-O’Donovan, Economics PhD Candidate, University of Pennsylvania.

Which factors predict the functionality of hand pumps? Do communities free ride on their neighbors’ water sources? Are there positive spillover effects in the maintenance of nearby pumps? And what does this all mean for practitioners? This post gives an overview of my ongoing Economics PhD research, which tries to answer these questions.

Note: this research is still in progress, and I am seeking survey responses to complement my quantitative work, and help understand and interpret my results. If you have knowledge of how decisions are made in the installation and/or maintenance of hand pumps, please take this 8 minute survey here: bit.ly/PumpSurvey

Continue reading “Water, Spillovers and Free Riding: the economics of pump functionality in Tanzania”

Sharing water point data is easier than ever using the new Water Point Data Exchange #WPDx platform

guest blog by Brian Banks, GWC

Over the past decade, a dramatic shift has taken place in the water sector that fundamentally changes the way that work is done. During this time, water point mapping around the world has accelerated at unprecedented rates. Dropping costs of technology and innovative software has enabled national governments, as well as funders, NGOs, academics, and others to inventory, share, and even monitor the work they have contributed to.

Continue reading “Sharing water point data is easier than ever using the new Water Point Data Exchange #WPDx platform”

It all starts with knowing!

Dear Members,

There is a lot of attention for monitoring, and rightfully so. New Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have opened great possibilities to collect data, store data and visualise data on mobile phones. Maybe some of you already have used mobile phones for data collection. New ICT has brought national scale sector monitoring within reach. It has been done in Liberia, countries in Central America, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Ethiopia and many others.

Continue reading “It all starts with knowing!”

Sharing is Caring: The Emerging Framework for Sharing Water Point Data

Webinar – February 5, 2015 – 11:00am  EST

On behalf of the Water Point Data Exchange, we invite you to join a one hour webinar on Thursday, February 5 at 11:00am EST. This webinar will provide an exciting update on sector-wide efforts to support  the sharing of water point data across diverse stakeholders.

This webinar will provide an exciting update on sector-wide efforts to support the sharing of water point data across diverse stakeholders. Harmonizing this data has the potential to provide unprecedented opportunities for learning from the past and managing water services well into the future.

Starting with a background on the objectives of this initiative, the webinar will also provide an update on the progress made to date and the next steps in the development of the Water Point Data Exchange. Participants will be introduced to the current draft standard and also learn how they can to help shape the standard as this work moves forward.

 Click here to register.

 

Brian Banks

Director of Strategic Initiatives

Global Environment & Technology Foundation

2900 S. Quincy Street, Suite 375

Arlington, VA 22206

Phone: (703) 379-2713

Email: Brian.Banks@getf.org

Apples and oranges: a comparative assessment in WASH

water services that last

A few weeks ago, an interesting email discussion was held on “water point mapping” D-Group of the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN). Part of the discussion focused on how much it costs to map or monitor all water systems in a country. Various figures were floating around in the discussion. But when looking at these in more detail, it was like comparing apples to oranges. Some of the costs mentioned had included the staff time of (local) government, others hadn’t, as they considered this to be a fixed cost; some referred only to a simple mapping of water points, others had done a more comprehensive collection of all kinds of data of the water points; some of the data were expressed in dollars per water point, others in local currency per person. So, no immediate sense could be made of the numbers. A former colleague once said: “an apple is…

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Sustainable water services take ‘Water & Health’ Conference by storm

Dr Grace Oluwasanya, Federal University of Agriculture, Nigeria presenting on “Water User’s Perception to Health Impacts: Implications for Self Supply Water Safety Plans”

I was lucky enough to attend this year’s Water & Health Conference at the University of North Carolina. I was even luckier to make it as the skirts of Hurricane Sandy swept up the Atlantic coast before crashing into the American North East.

It was a great opportunity to meet, face-to-face, many RWSN members who have been communicating with online and meet a whole bunch of new people. It was really inspiring to hear their stories and find out more about their organisations and research. Here are just some of my highlights from the event:
Continue reading “Sustainable water services take ‘Water & Health’ Conference by storm”

Experimenting with water service delivery

water services that last

By Patrick Moriarty

Coming up with a convincing elevator pitch for our Sustainable Services at Scale (Triple-S) project has long been a challenge.  Which, given the complexities of the rural water sector itself, is possibly not that surprising.  Whether defining ourselves (at least in part) as a complexity informed water services development lab will help, remains to be seen – but for us it is progress!

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