By Susan Davis, Executive Director
For two weeks in March, our friends at the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) let me lead a discussion on resolution of problems with water systems through the Sustainable Services D-group. Resolution is the process of addressing problems identified through monitoring and/or evaluation. It goes by many names, and is sometimes part of post-construction support.
I appreciate those who contributed to the discussion: organizations working in Chad, Congo, Ghana, Nepal, and Uganda. Following is a summary of responses to some questions I posed.
Q1. Has your organization ever conducted post-implementation (post-project) monitoring?
This question was a bit tricky because the responding organizations support monitoring at a district or national level, or they monitor water points that they didn’t necessarily help to build or repair. This is a good reminder that not everyone is simply building hardware. However, all of the responding groups monitor water management groups or water points after they are built.
Q1a. If yes, was it undertaken alone or in collaboration with government, water users or other agencies?
Respondents do monitoring in collaboration with water users and their community leaders, NGOs doing implementation, and/or local and national government. Specifics:
- IRC Ghana did monitoring in close collaboration with the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), the main government agency responsible for rural and small town water supply in Ghana. CWSA led the development of the monitoring indicator framework, based on their national norms, standards and guidelines. The indicators were refined with inputs from a wide range of stakeholders, through the national level learning alliance platform. District government staff collected, cleaned, and processed monitoring data, with support from the regional CWSA staff and Triple-S project staff.
- WHAVE works in formal collaboration (signed agreements, clear roles and responsibilities) with water users and their community leaders, NGOs doing implementation, and local government. WHAVE shares the data with local government and central government offices.
- IDO collaborates with the Ministry of Water in Chad, both centrally in Ndjamena, and locally.
Q1b. How often was the monitoring, how many communities, households or water points do you look at and what tools do you use to collect the data?
|How often?||What was monitored?||What tools?|
|IRC Ghana||Annually (2012-2014)||In three districts:
– all communal water facilities
– Water and Sanitation Management Teams
– District governments
|Mobile phone based surveys|
|WHAVE||Monthly||155 communities / water point user groups, growing to 200 this year||observation surveys|
|IDO||Every 6 months||Inventory pumps and check all pumps from all programs (1270 water points)||Started using paper but switching to electronic data entry on iPad, using iForm Builder software. Database is now on Filemaker.|
|Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project in Western Nepal (RWSSP-WN)||“Step-By-Step approach”: monitoring after implementation and final post-construction monitoring||650 rural community water supply schemes||complete monitoring visit involves scheme site observation, water user and sanitation committee meetings, public audits and community discussions|
Q2. Has your organization ever conducted post-implementation evaluation?
IDO’s internal volunteers diagnose problems with broken down pumps and estimate costs for repairs for the village. Since 2010, they have conducted 732 diagnostics.
Q3a. Did your organization participate in any resolution activities based on the information gathered from the above post-implementation monitoring and evaluation?
- IRC Ghana: The purpose of the monitoring was to assist the district to have a better overview of their water systems, the services these provide, and the performance of the service providers and service authorities (responsible for ensuring the provision of sustainable services). The monitoring data are shared and discussed with district level decision makers for planning and taking corrective actions. The CWSA is now using the monitoring system in another 133 districts in Ghana out of a total of 216 districts.
- WHAVE’s approach uses monitoring data to professionalize local actors (local technicians, social workers) through financial incentives, and to generate behavior change. Adam Harvey of WHAVE says, “The process of monitoring is actual a driver of change in itself, and we enhance this.” Their focus is to build local institutions and a regulatory structure.
Q3b. What did resolution activities cost?
IDO: Typically a repair costs 50,000 FCFA (80 USD). The spare parts are bought from local distributors and repair technicians are also local. Since 2010, IDO has helped in 447 repairs.
For comparison, Resolution of Problems with Water Systems (Appendix H) summarizes results and costs for various types of post-construction (also called direct) support. On average, the cost per person per year is 2.50 USD, which is in line with the WASHCost benchmark of 2 to 3 USD per person per year for direct (post-construction) support for hand pumps and piped schemes.
Q4. What have been the results of your resolution activities?
- WHAVE: The reliability (daily operational functionality) of all 155 water points in our program has been more than 99% throughout the past 20 months, compared to baselines of 20% to 60%. Monitoring is also improving hygiene conditions and maintenance of shared water sources.
- IDO has seen an improvement in service level due to its resolution activities; going from 65% broken pumps to 50%. However, they feel a sustainable change will only happen if the village water committees are reactivated and functional. They have started programs towards this end, beyond monitoring committees, which is essential to keep them going. They are moving from diagnosing and repairing pumps to diagnosing and repairing water committees.
- RWSSP-WN reports that with the Step-By-Step approach, service levels are improved compared to many other schemes in the same areas. Thinking about what happens post-construction early on helps to “resolve” issues before they lead to failed services.
Q5. What barriers did your organization face to getting involved in resolution activities?
- RWSSP-WN: One barrier relates to ensuring quality at scale while the flow and reliability of information may not be what it should be. A very limited number of RWSSP-WN staff to work with local governments in 14 districts with makes ensuring high quality water services a challenge as well.
- WHAVE acknowledges the paradox that removing dependency might require an extra intervention effort to support the building of and enabling environment. Another barrier is that many funding organizations still focus on “implementation” (projects) rather than outcomes. They find government very supportive but limited by factors like slow procurement.
- IDO has identified similar barriers: money, politics, poverty, and powerless local authorities.
Moving forward. . .
To join the RWSN Sustainable Services D-Group, click here. It’s a wonderful place to ask questions and get input from a global network of WASH professionals, and to share useful studies and other resources related to sustainable water services.
Let us know what you think about this discussion – respond to what people have shared or answer the questions yourselves in the comments section below.
From IRC on monitoring
In the interest of enhancing monitoring efforts, you might be interested in the Water Point Data Exchange standard (webinar).
WASH Advocates’ portal on Monitoring Evaluation Resolution & Learning (MERL) has several helpful resources, including examples of tools that specifically address resolution.
Sustainable WASH webinars on MERL
This link has a list of resources that might be interesting as you and your organization consider what actions you might support when you find poor or non-functioning water services.
 On average, a district in Ghana has about 120,000 inhabitants, 100 to 300 water points, and 5 to 10 piped schemes.