Bakalian, A. and Wakeman, W. (eds) (2009). Post-construction support and sustainability in community-managed rural water supply : case studies in Peru, Bolivia, and Ghana. (Water Sector Board discussion paper series ; no. 14). Washington, DC, USA, Bank-Netherlands Water Partnership (BNWP), World Bank. xvii, 114 p. : 2 boxes, 1 fig., 38 tab. Incl. ref.
This volume reports the main findings from a multi-country research project on the performance of rural water supply systems in developing countries. Starting in 2004, the research investigated how the provision of support to communities after the construction of a rural water supply project affected project performance in the medium term in three countries: Bolivia, Ghana, and Peru.
Surprisingly, the great majority of the village water systems were found to be performing well.
Positive findings were:
- The demand-driven, community-management model seems to be working, at least in the medium term
- Communities had been involved in pre-construction planning and helped with capital costs
- Community water supply projects were still working
- Villages used post-construction support (PCS) from wherever they could get it
- Consumer satisfaction was high
Negative findings were:
- Households were still using unprotected water sources
- The finances of many village water committees were in poor shape
- Generally, more analysis is required to assess the impact of PCS on sustainability and satisfaction
These findings seem to support the concept of the demand-driven community management model—that communities can and should take full responsibility for their systems. The unsolicited PCS activities that appear most promising are those that help communities to renew and further develop their capacities: post-construction training for system operators and non-technical support visits to help village water committees with administrative functions or water use disputes.
However, it was found that that even those communities whose cost-recovery systems seem to be meeting program objectives—by paying 5–10 percent of capital costs and collecting tariffs to cover operation, maintenance, and repairs—are not moving toward a financially sustainable future in which they can either (1) replace infrastructure when it reaches the end of its economic life, or (2) expand system capacity to accommodate population and economic growth.
In a significant number of villages, the water committees are not collecting tariffs at all, or are collecting too little revenue from households to cover the financial costs of major repairs—much less the costs of system expansion or capital replacement.
The water supply systems in the communities in the study sample are not financially sustainable without new infusions of capital relatively soon—both to replace existing infrastructure and to provide for growth. The sector’s current capital financing model—and the post-construction activities of NGOs and other actors—seem to create a moral hazard that will undermine the principle of community self-reliance in the post-construction phase and discourage communities from making their own investments in water infrastructure to support economic growth.
Achieving long-term financial sustainability in these systems will require better coordination of the policies of NGOs with government and with each other seem. One important role for NGOs in the future could be as catalysts for post-construction support (e.g., training and/or locally-based models for raising capital), rather than as dispensers of subsidies for communities that cannot manage to repair their own water projects.
In summary, the demand-driven, community-management planning model has come a long way towards a working model in the rural water sector. The next frontier seems to be the design of a policy framework that will enable communities to handle the twin challenges of system rehabilitation and expansion.