UNC Water and Health Conference Event: Resources to Keep the Water Flowing


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By Susan Davis, Executive Director with research support from Lydia Prokosch

Keep the water flowing side eventAt the UNC Water and Health conference last week, Improve International hosted an event called Keep the Water Flowing. We highlighted the various types of post-construction support, results and costs. Below are links to the presentations:

We also shared several resources, links to which are provided below by theme.

The Case for Post-Construction Support

Guidelines for Resolution of Problems with Water Systems. Improve International, 2014.

Abstract: Resolution is the process of addressing problems identified through post-implementation monitoring and/or evaluation. Resolution reflects the concept that those implementing organizations that are made aware that water systems they have built are non-functional or need major repair are responsible for responding. There is resounding agreement in the water development sector that rural communities in developing countries need some sort of support after installation of water points. Appendix H of the report compares costs and results for various post-construction support models.

Assessing sustainability of community management of rural water systems in the developing world  Ryan W. Schweitzer and James R. Mihelcic, 2012. Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development. 02.1

Abstract: An alarmingly high percentage of drinking water systems in the developing world do not provide design service, or may even fail. This has health implications for vulnerable populations forced to consume water from alternative, often unimproved sources. The Sustainability Assessment Tool was tested on 61 statistically representative geographically stratified sample communities with rural water systems in the Dominican Republic. As post-construction support increased so did community participation and financial durability.

Fact Sheet: Water services in 3 Districts in Ghana  Adank, M., et al, 2012. IRC. IRC Ghana.

Data collection timeline: November 2011-January 2012 (baseline study)

Cost/funding for post-construction support: not specified

Systems evaluated: Piped schemes and point source

What was evaluated Key findings
Water service levels: functionality; reliability; accessibility (non-crowding and distance); quality; quantity Piped schemes are more functional than point sources
Performance of service providers (governance, operations and financial management) CWSA service level indicator scores are low (19% total)
Performance of service authorities Performance of service providers and authorities is low

Supporting Rural Water Supply: Moving Toward a Service Delivery Approach Lockwood, H., & Smits, S., 2011. The Hague: IRC. Rugby, UK: Practical Action Publishing.

Chapter on post-construction support p. 103:  “The notion that once built, systems can be simply handed over to communities, and that the systems will continue to function more or less indefinitely, is now well and truly de-bunked. It is increasingly recognised that some form of post-construction support is an integral part of any [service delivery mechanism]. Harvey and Reed (2006) go as far as stating that without such post-construction support, [community-based management] is not viable and other alternatives, such as self-supply or private sector supply, should be considered.”

Briefing Note: Direct support post-construction to rural water service providers McIntyre, Peter and Smits, Stef, 2015. IRC.

Data collection timeline: not specified

Cost/funding for post-construction support: between $1USD – $3USD per day (users, governments and outside investors)

Systems evaluated: rural water services

What was evaluated Key findings
Mandate and responsibilities Support is more effective if goals and responsibilities of governments are clear
Form of Support Maintenance needs to be proactive and consistent, rather than reactive. Training for maintenance staff should occur on a regular basis.
Frequency of support Higher frequency of visits only slightly improves the quality of post-construction service, although duration of visits may relate to greater effectiveness
Networked support When service providers are given greater access to resources and training, quality of post-construction programs improves.

How well is the demand-driven, community management model for rural water systems doing Whittington, D. et al, 2008. Evidence from Bolivia, Peru and Ghana.

Countries: Bolivia, Peru and Ghana

Data collection timeline: Peru (summer 2004), Ghana (fall 2004) Bolivia (early 2005)

Cost/funding for post-construction support: In Ghana, 16% of communities reported that post-construction repairs were funded by the Church of Latter Day Saints. In Peru, community members claimed that outside sources contributed towards 3% of post-construction costs and 8% in Bolivia. Some communities contributed towards repairs, operation and maintenance, but amounts were not specified in article.

Systems evaluated: rural water services, 3-12 years post-construction

What was evaluated Key findings
Interviews of community leaders, operators, women and heads of households Communities with and without post-construction support worked to keep their water systems running. Training for systems operators varied widely among three countries
Water supply system 95% of all household taps in Bolivia and Peru appeared to be functioning and 90% of boreholes in Ghana were working, with or without post-construction support

Impact of Post-Construction Support

Arrangements, impacts and costs of post-construction support Smits, S., 2012. IRC.

Organizations/Program: Business Culture Programme – national government; Housing Secretariat of Caldas – departmental government; Health Secretariat of Cali – municipal government; Aguas de Manizales – urban utility; Aguas Manantiales de Pacora – urban utility; AQUACOL – association of community-based service providers; Coffee Growers Association Caldas

Cost/funding for post-construction support:  At expenditure below 1 US$/person/year, impact of support negligible; 2-3 US$/person/year seems to be order of magnitude where impacts can be observed

Systems evaluated: 40 rural water systems

What was evaluated Key findings
Service provider performance
  • Less than half (16) had an acceptable of high score for performance
  • Above all high scores in administrative management (nonpayment rate of only 15%)
  • Low scores in “advanced” technical management, particularly catchment protection
Impact of post-construction support
  • Except for 2, all systems had received some external support the last year, some ad hoc, some structural post-construction support
  • Post-construction support does lead to statistically significant better performance of service providers, but not to better service levels
  • Even with support the average performance is barely acceptable

Arrangements and cost of providing support to rural water service providers Smits, S., et al, 2011. IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.

Organization/Program: Triple-S, Ghana, Burkina-Faso, Mozambique and India

Data collection timeline: 2010 and 2011

Cost/funding for post-construction support: post-construction programs costing between $2USD and $3USD per person per year seem to function well (South Africa, Chile, Brazil), but countries spending less than $1USD per person per year report inadequate services (pg. 35).

Systems evaluated: rural water services

What was evaluated Key findings
Direct support Support given by local governments and NGOs is often given in an “ad-hoc” manner. Stories about direct service can often be negative, but the few data available on direct service imply that it can be beneficial (pg.34)
Indirect support National policies and their implications on the ground differ

Community Managed Rural Water Systems: What makes them Sustainable? Schweitzer, R.W.* & Mihelcic, J. R. 2011, 6th Rural Water Supply Network Forum 2011 Uganda.

Organization / program:  Various unnamed national ministries, local municipalities, or non-governmental organizations, Dominican Republic

Data collection timeline: not stated; pre-2011

Cost/funding for post-construction support: not stated

Systems evaluated: all piped systems, gravity fed or mechanically assisted, that provide water for domestic use in rural areas

What was evaluated Key findings
Community participation (measured as the attendance at community meetings and events regarding the water system) Higher in systems that were visited more often by supporting organizations such as the national ministry, local municipality, or non-governmental organization.
Financial durability, measured as the ability of tariff generated income to cover operation and maintenance costs in addition to the presence of significant savings for eventual reactive or “crisis” maintenance activities Improved along with increased frequency of visits from a supporting institution

Evaluating the Role of Post-construction Support in Sustaining Drinking Water Projects  Prokopy, L. et al, 2008.

Country: Peru

Data collection timeline: Summers of 2004 and 2005

Cost/funding for post-construction support: mean payment for households is less than $1 per month.

Systems evaluated: water services

What was evaluated Key findings
Physical performance Researchers report that most programs were functioning well, regardless of post-construction support. However, the small subset of communities that consistently experienced problems with water services were more likely to request post-construction assistance
Financial performance No statistical difference between communities with and without post-construction support
Customer satisfaction Customers receiving post-construction support report feeling more secure in their ability to deal with water systems problems as they arise

Post-construction support for sustainable rural water supply services: Expenditure on direct and indirect support Verhoeven J., Smits S, 2011. IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, The Hague, Netherlands.

Abstract: There is a body of evidence that the quality and sustainability of rural water services improve when community-based service providers receive regular post-construction support such as monitoring, technical assistance and (re)training of service providers. However, post-construction support is often not sufficiently defined and it is not applied structurally in many countries. The cost, which can be in the order of $US 2 dollars per capita per year, may be too high. While post-construction support is given (lower) middle income countries in Latin America and Southern Africa, little is spent on it in many African countries. Based on a desk review of literature in six countries and an analysis of cost data collected by the WASHCost project in Andhra Pradesh (India), Mozambique and Ghana in 2010 and 2011, this paper provides an overview of post-construction support for rural water supply service delivery including its cost. It recommends countries to strengthen post-construction support.

Post-Construction Support and Sustainability in Community-Managed Rural Water Supply: Case Studies in Peru, Bolivia, and Ghana Bakalian, A., & Wakeman, W., 2009. Washington DC: World Bank.

Organization/Program: World Bank; Bolivia, Ghana, and Peru

Data collection timeline: 6-7 years after program

Cost/funding for post-construction support: not specified

Systems evaluated: private and public taps (10,000 qualitative responses)

What was evaluated Key findings
Status of the System (functionality) Taps function well (up to 95% in Bolivia and Peru), but customers report using “unprotected” sources in tandem with taps
Management Structure (community meetings, elected officials, gender, caretakers/ operators) Financial and managerial assistance are important in success of programs, but “There was no evidence that free repairs, technical assistance, or an intensive supply-driven post-construction support program improved either technical sustainability or household satisfaction” (pg. 4)
Cost recovery Household collections cover operating costs Bolivia – n/a), (Peru – 50%), Ghana (51%); Household collections cover minor repairs (Bolivia – n/a), (Peru – 80%), Ghana (65%)
Customer satisfaction Household satisfaction with water systems was high (Bolivia – 83%); Peru (61%); Ghana (88%)

Sustaining the Benefits of Rural Water Supply Investments: Experience from Cochabamba and Chuquisaca, Bolivia  Davis, J. et al, 2008.

Country: Bolivia

Data collection timeline: September and October, 2005

Systems evaluated: Water systems (storage tanks, source and pipes) ranging from 5-8 years old

Cost/funding for post-construction support: not specified

What was evaluated Key findings
Functionality (current and predicted) indicated by occurrence and frequency of breakdowns Visits by trained post-construction staff were correlated with improved tap functionality in households
User satisfaction with O&M, water committee, and quality of water (safety, color, odor) Post-construction support is linked with superior management practices (administrative and financial)
Perceptions of future operations of water systems (operators’ perceptions, cost analysis, functionality of system) Not specified

Area Mechanics

District hand pump mechanics associations in Uganda for improved operation and maintenance of rural water-supply systems Nekesa J. and Kulanyi R., 2012. Waterlines Vol. 31 No. 3.

Abstract: In Uganda, functionality is still a challenge, with 19% of water points not working. Though trained by local government and NGOs, hand pump mechanics (HPMs) are not recognized as local private sector players and are mostly segregated individuals, yet they are a key stakeholder in operation and maintenance (O&M) of rural water supply. HPMs find it hard to access spare parts and cannot benefit from economies of scale; nor are they involved in decision making in water source development and rehabilitation and cannot receive any formal government contracts for rehabilitation. This situation has resulted in a lack of adequate information around operation and maintenance such as costs, functionality, and consumer feedback loops. At community level, there are reported cases of difficulties to access reliable repairs with uniform prices. This evidence-based paper explores how mechanics have contributed to sustaining the flow of water through district-based HPMs associations in five districts in Uganda.

Positioning Hand Pump Mechanics to work with District Local Governments to improve rural water services Mirembe L. & Magara P., 2014. Triple-S Uganda.

Summary:  Since 2011, when the Ministry of Water and Environment recognized Hand Pump Mechanics Associations (HPMAs) as crucial to the improvement of functionality of rural water facilities, numerous efforts have gone into supporting the associations and strengthening their capacity.  One of the key developments was the issuance of guidelines for district local governments to engage with the HPMAs, followed by the waiver from the Public Procurement and Disposal Authority (PPDA) allowing local governments to give the first priority to the associations when procuring services for operation and maintenance of facilities. It emerged from the discussions that HPMAs have to be prepared to harness the opportunities presented by the issuance of the guidelines and the PPDA waiver.

Operationalising district hand pump mechanic associations: a case of Uganda Sentumbwe A., 2014. 37th WEDC International Conference, Hanoi, Vietnam.

Summary: Main reasons for low functionality of hand pumps were identified as lack of effective hand pump mechanics in the communities to repair the hand pumps coupled with lack of spare parts. One of the key areas to support user communities was to ensure well trained and coordinated district hand pump mechanics associations (DHPMA) to carry out preventive maintenance and minor repairs. In districts that have started engaging the HPMAs, there has been reduced cost of major repair and timely response to hand pumps breakdown.

Connected Hand Pump Mechanics for Improved Service Delivery: A Case Study of District-Based Associations of Hand Pump Mechanics in Uganda as a Supporting Mechanism Mommen B. and Nekesa J., 2010. IRC Symposium Pumps, Pipes and Promises.

Summary: As communities rely on hand pump mechanics to maintain and repair their water sources, the role of these hand pump mechanics seems crucial in the sustainability of rural water sources. Several gaps have been identified in the ability of the hand pump mechanics to fulfill their role and need to be addressed. As these hand pump mechanics work as individuals without any supporting mechanism, associations of hand pump mechanism at district level could be a modality which can facilitate supporting mechanisms to address these gaps. This case study, focusing on five district-based hand pump mechanics associations in Uganda explores the ability of these associations to overcome their gaps in service delivery. The evidence shows that these associations increase the ability of these hand pump mechanics to address their problems: a) there has been an increase in working together and learning, b) increased information flow has been noted between water users, hand pump mechanics and district structures, c) the hand pump mechanics have identified the access to spares and tools as their biggest challenge and are increasingly lobbying and planning to secure supply chains of spares and tools, and d) working together with the district water office in borehole rehabilitations has increased. These elements seem to facilitate increased transparency in the costs of rural water supply maintenance and can provide a venue for cost reduction. The accountability mechanisms have been strengthened with the establishment of these associations, the increased information flow and working together. The increased dialogue and discussions have further exposed the weaknesses in the current operation and maintenance framework in Uganda and provides a venue to strengthen this framework.

InterAide Support to Operation and Maintenance of Rural Water Supplies in Malawi in 2008  de Saint Méloir B., 2009. RWSN.

Organization/Program: InterAide Operation and Maintenance project

Data collection timeline: 2008

Cost/funding for post-construction support: detailed costs provided in report

Systems supported: Afridev handpumps

Professionalizing Community Management

Community-Based Well Maintenance in Rural Haiti Aliprantis D., 2012. Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Organization/Program: Haiti Outreach, Haiti’s National Ministry of Potable Water and Sanitation (DINEPA)

Data collection timeline: January 2010

Cost/funding for post-construction support: Haiti Outreach’s management training costs $2,000 and the well shelter an additional $2,000

Systems evaluated: wells

What was evaluated Key findings
Compared standard intervention to the community-based intervention Combining these factors into one number, the ratio of the quantity of water-person-years provided under a community-based intervention to those provided in a standard intervention is 1.89.

Professionalising community-based management for rural water services Lockwood H. and Le Gouais A, 2011. IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.

Summary: Community-based management has long been established as the principal service delivery model for providing water to rural populations in developing countries. But this model has limitations: voluntary water committees are responsible for maintaining water systems, but lack legal recognition, skills, and accountability to do so. Inadequate external monitoring and support lead to poor technical and financial management of water services, and ultimately to system breakdowns and service failure. The professionalization of community based-management means moving away from the voluntary provision of water services towards a philosophy of service provision, and working to agreed standards, with greater transparency, accountability and efficiency.

Services Monitoring

Fact Sheet: Water Services Monitoring in East Gonja Atengem, J. et al, 2013. IRC Triple S.

Organization/Program: Triple-S, East Gonja District, Ghana

Data collection timeline: November 2011-January 2012 (baseline study)

Cost/funding for post-construction support: not specified

Systems evaluated: point sources and piped schemes

What was evaluated Key findings
Water service levels: functionality; reliability; accessibility (non-crowding and distance); quality; quantity. 36% of point sources are non-functional/broken
Performance of service providers (governance, operations and financial management) 98% of point sources do not meet CWSA service level criteria
Performance of service authorities Performance of service providers and authorities is low

Circuit Riders

Circuit Rider post-construction support: improvements in domestic water quality and system sustainability in El Salvador Kayser, G. L. et al, 2014. Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development 04.3. IWA Publishing.

Country: El Salvador

Data collection timeline: Field data collection took place in February 2009; 60 villages participated (28 with Circuit Riders and 32 without Circuit Riders)

Cost/funding for post-construction support: less than $1 USD per household per year (total includes operating costs, income for five fulltime CR technicians, travel costs, water quality testing and workshops twice per year). Funding was provided by the International Rural Water Association and gained through selling chlorine tablets and tablet feeders.

Systems evaluated: shared hand-pumps, Water Service Provider program

What was evaluated Key findings
“Hygiene grade” – washing of latrines, containers and hands; use of lidded post-filtration containers On average, the presence of Water Service Providers was linked to a 15% increase in hygiene grade levels as compared with controls.
Reliability (days handpump is functioning properly) Hand-pumps functioned very well (almost 100%)
Quality of water at home and at the source Water quality was maintained, but researchers did not find an upward trend


Sustainability of the MSABI Tanzanian Water Point Model 6-years on. Dr Nik Holbro*, Alphonsina Kanyeto, Penina Liseki, Jesse Godwin, Sarah Msoffe, Bruno Sanga, Novatus Mwangeta, Lauren D’Mello-Guyett, Pip Ochre, Chris Hertle, Dale Young**, 2015. Msabi.

Organization/Program: MSABI, Tanzania

Data collection timeline: program started in 2009, data were collected in 2015

Cost/funding for post-construction support: Customers pay TZS 6,000 per month in exchange for Pump for Life maintenance service and repair parts.

Systems evaluated: boreholes and rope pumps, with and without Pump for Life maintenance service

What was evaluated Key findings
Operational indicators: functionality, repairs, customer perception and satisfaction Customers subscribing to Pump for Life (P4L) service experience functionality rates of 96.1% as opposed to non-users (84.9%). In schools, functionality for P4L users was 93.5% in comparison to 25% for non-users.
General program indicators: location, number of users, costs of program Not specified
Financial indicators: operational and maintenance costs, revenues Not specified

Spare Parts Supply Chains

Creating Successful Private Sector Supply Chains: A resource guide for rural water supply and sanitation practitioners Oyo A., 2002. World Bank Water and Sanitation Program.

Summary:  This resource guide provides guidance for development practitioners on how best to engage these SMEs to develop successful “supply chains” for RWSS1. (It deals with goods and services for projects where equipment is already installed and also for projects that are yet to be developed.) Drawing upon experience gained in 12 studies of supply chains throughout South Asia, West, East and Southern Africa and Central America (which focused largely on handpumps), and experience in other sectors (i.e., textiles and agro-processing) this guide recommends five key factors for successful and sustainable private sector supply chains:

  1. Adequate demand
  2. Effective stakeholder incentives
  3. Effective information flow
  4. Effective supply chain management
  5. An enabling environment

Spare Part Supplies for Handpumps in Africa: Success Factors for Sustainability Anthony Oyo, 2006. Water and Sanitation Program – Africa.

Summary: This field note describes lessons drawn from a review of 25 studies conducted in 15 different countries that looked at handpump spare parts supply, particularly in rural areas of African and non-African countries. The research suggests a number of key factors that are necessary for successful and sustainable handpump spare part supply chains.

Sustainable Supply Chains for Rural Water Services: Linking local procurement of handpumps and spare parts supply Harvey P., 2011. Rural Water Supply Network.

Summary: There is a critical need to increase the sustainability of rural water supply services, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. One of the primary reasons for low levels of sustainability is that supply chains do not deliver spare parts close to customers at an affordable cost. Most of the users of handpumps live in rural areas, where they require access to spare parts through some form of distribution network. Typically, spares are not readily available. This field note outlines why current approaches to supply chain development for spare parts have not worked. It presents a set of solutions to ensure the availability of spare parts for operation and maintenance of rural water systems through integrated supply chains.


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