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Safe Water Strategy

Why is it so important to think about long-term solutions for water projects?

Between 1997 en 2013 the percentage of non-functioning (broken) water systems in developing countries - 40% - has remained more or less constant - see

Reasons for this include: bad or no maintenance. To keep systems working you need to plan and reserve funds for both minor and major repairs, as well as for replacement, extension (population growth) or upgrading (e.g. from handpump to house connections) of systems.

If there is no regular preventive maintenance, this could lead to expensive repairs or even the construction of a completely new water system.

How do you ensure that a project is sustainable (what is the role of local communities)?

IRC has developed a set of building blocks for sustainable water and sanitation services - In this regard it is important not to think in terms of projects or systems, but in terms of services. What is needed to ensure that everyone, everywhere (not just in their homes but also in schools, hospitals and at work) has enough water and safe sanitation, which is of a good quality and affordable, for ever?

The following two IRC videos give a good introduction to sustainable services:

Regarding the role of local communities, the following is important to take into consideration:

  • water and sanitation are human rights, but they are not free, everyone who can afford it should contribute to direct (construction, minor & major maintenance, replacement etc etc) and indirect costs (zie the WASHCost video for all the types of costs)

  • you can't expect that local community members have all the knowledge and expertise to solve all water and sanitatiion problems themselves, local support organisations will always be needed.

In the Bandung Barat project in Indonesia, system construction and the set up of a local water service authority took place at the same time. Is this a good way to ensure sustainable services?

Yes, as long as the local water service authority professionalises (see the professionalisation building block) and it can depend on a local support organisation (see the Support to service providers building block).