Seasonality, water use and community management of water systems in rural settings: Qualitative evidence from Ghana, Kenya, and Zambia

The sustainability of rural, community-managed water systems in sub-Saharan Africa depends in part on the ability of local water committees to repair breakdowns and carry out the operation and maintenance (O&M) of the system. Much of sub-Saharan Africa has two distinct seasons that affect the availability of water sources and how people use water. Little is known about how seasonality affects water system management. This qualitative study is based on 320 interviews and focus group discussions and examines the effects of season on community water use and management in Ghana, Kenya and Zambia. Participants revealed that seasonality affects water availability, water system breakdowns, resource mobilization, committee activity, and external support availability. In the rainy season, participants typically reported spending less time and money on water collection because rainwater harvesting and seasonal streams, ponds, wells and reservoirs are available. In the dry season, people used improved groundwater sources more often and spent more money and time collecting water. Although seasonal changes in household water demand and use have been examined previously, our data suggest that seasonality also influences community management through differential water system use, system breakdowns and management characteristics. We found that water committees generally have less money, time and access to external support during the rainy season, making them less able to carry out O&M. Our results suggest that community engagement should take place over a long period of time so that seasonal patterns in management can be understood and incorporated into water committee training. External support actors should make a more targeted effort to understand the cultural and economic patterns in a community in order to train committees with appropriate management strategies.

Seasonality, water use and community management of water systems in rural settings: Qualitative evidence from Ghana, Kenya, and Zambia. Emma Kelly, Katherine F Shields, Ryan Cronk, Kristen Lee, Nikki Behnke, Tori Klug, Jamie Bartram. 2018. Science of the Total Environment, Volume 628: 715-721. doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.02.045.