Understanding Processes for Sustainability in Community-Managed Water Supply Systems

The “sustainability” and “functionality” of community-managed drinking water systems are of high concern in the global water sector. Breakdowns of water systems occur frequently and intermittent and erratic piped supplies are common in low- and middle-income countries. However, some water systems continue to function for decades while others fail shortly after implementation. Evidence on sustainability and community management of water systems suggests that the presence of a management committee and the collection of tariffs can be important predictors of sustainability. However, among functional water systems that have water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) committees, there is a limited understanding of what characteristics distinguish an “effective” WaSH committee.

While many WaSH stakeholders have sought to learn by looking at system failures, we are looking closely at what has led to successful water systems and will apply lessons learned to improve programming.

This study will explore how factors such as WaSH committee characteristics contribute to the sustained functionality of water systems. We will conduct qualitative and participatory field research in rural communities in Kenya, Ghana, and Zambia, including interviews, focus groups, committee and community mapping and timeline activities, and observations. Additionally, the researchers will conduct interviews with key stakeholders within World Vision. This qualitative work will add detail and explanation to quantitative studies by The Water Institute at UNC and others that point to functionality factors, but cannot provide insight into how and why these factors are linked with functionality.

The Water Institute at UNC aims to understand the processes supporting sustainability to explain how and why certain water systems are highly functional and inform best practices that facilitate successful management.

Water Institute Researchers

  • Jamie Bartram – Principal Investigator
  • Tori Klug – Lead Researcher
  • Kate Shields – Research Advisor
  • Ryan Cronk – Researcher
  • Nikki Behnke – Researcher
  • Leah Everist – Researcher
  • Emma Kelly –Researcher
  • Kristen Lee – Researcher
  • Julian Oliver – Researcher

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