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Community managed water schemes

We have received a request to provide a list of academic studies on the sustainability of community-managed water schemes, including issues related to the (financial) management, and the benefits/pitfalls of pre-paid systems. Lists of academic studies for one or more of these questions would be appreciated.

1 Answer

Safe Water Strategy

Here is an annotated bibliography compiled by my IRC colleague Senior Programme Officer Stef Smits:

Annotated bibliography on community-managed water supplies

[1]. World Bank Group. 2017. Sustainability Assessment of Rural Water Service Delivery Models : Findings of a Multi-Country Review. World Bank, Washington, DC

This is a study into the sustainability of rural water supplies in 16 countries across the World. This included in almost all the countries community-managed supplies, but also other types of service delivery models. The 16 countries included some of the least developed countries, but also upper middle income countries, such as Brazil and China. As such, it allowed not only analysing the opportunities and limitations of sustainability of community-managed schemes, but also looking into alternative models to community management. It is a big report, but there is an executive summary which already covers quite a bit of detail.

On the finance side, the study concluded that tariff policies remain urban-biased, ill-defined, and not tailored to the rural context. They tend to require full cost recovery, without detailed guidelines, or differentiation between operational, capital maintenance and capital replacement costs, and lack mechanisms for enforcement. A common approach is that local governments are called to the rescue upon scheme failure through a “fix-on-failure” rather than a planned life-cycle cost approach. Some countries have good examples of tariff guidelines that accurately define and allocate responsibility for financing different life cycle costs (e.g. Brazil). But this is mainly the case under service delivery models, where institutional support is an integral part of community management. Where community management is isolated (i.e. there is no explicit or well-developed mechanism for institutional support), it scored poorly across the board, including on financial sustainability. No cases were found where tariffs only could cover all life-cycle costs. Even where urban utilities are tasked to serve neighbouring rural areas – such as in China – this is done either through cross-subsidy between urban core and rural areas, or by taxes (government subsidies).

It also systematically reviews other aspects of sustainability, and how that needs to be addressed in the enabling environment. It proposes a gradual approach to improving sustainability, depending on the starting situation. See figure ES.3 in the executive summary for guidance on that.

[2]. Academic papers with case studies on financial sustainability of community-managed water supplies There are many academic articles that have explored financial sustainability of community-managed water supplies in a particular case or country. Good papers include:

Al’Afghani, M.M.; Kohlitz, J. and Willetts, J. 2019. Not built to last: Improving legal and institutional arrangements for community-based water and sanitation service delivery in Indonesia. Water Alternatives 12(1): 285-303

Chowns, E. 2015. Is Community Management an Efficient and Effective Model of Public Service Delivery? Lessons from the Rural Water Supply Sector in Malawi. Public Administration and Development 35, 263–276 (2015)

Foster, T. (2013). Predictors of sustainability for community-managed handpumps in Sub-Saharan Africa: Evidence from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. Environmental Science and Technology 47 ... (more)