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Water Aid Sustainability Framework Review

Background of the paper: problem statement, or why they are writing the paper:

The aim of Water Aids Water Sustainability Framework is to assess the performance of various
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services that have been implemented by the organization
in various countries over the world. The organization recognizes that in order to achieve
Millennium Development Goal targets in the water sector, it is not sufficient to install
mechanisms for water supply facilities; progress can be attained only by guaranteeing lasting
change the facilities that are put into place (both hardware and software) must be able to
withstand the test of time, while the communities themselves must acquire the capacity to
maintain, enhance, and build on these improvements, otherwise the investment will have been

Studies conducted by Water Aid on WASH services worldwide reveal that despite delivery of
equipment and machinery to countries in need, these often fall into disrepair after a certain
period, leaving its beneficiaries in a worse situation. According to theses studies, while
responsibility falls mainly towards the users and benefactors of the facilities, communities do not
always have the ability to effectively manage the infrastructure without external support. Thus,
the continued development in the water sector relies heavily not just on the stakeholders, who,
before anything, must clamor for improved services, but on the national government, who are
ultimately responsible for ensuring delivery and means for delivery of utilities to local
governments and the private sector, non-governmental organizations, who must help link
governments with their constituents and assist in the formulation of projects and policies that
take into account the elements necessary to achieve lasting change.

Issues indicated in the paper:

I. Sustainability

Sustainability, according to Len Abrams, is about whether or not WASH services and good
hygiene practices continue to work and deliver benefits over time. no time limit is set on
those continued services, behavior changes and outcomes. In other words, sustainability is
about lasting benefits achieved through the continued enjoyment of water supply and
sanitation services and hygiene practices.

To construct their Framework, Water Aid used WASH projects as an evidence base to
pinpoint the challenges faced by sustainability, as well as the factors needed to achieve
the latter. Among the challenges noted were the following: capacity, financial revenue, and
integration of context-specific implementation with a wider national policy. As regards the
first, Water Aid observed that the beneficiary communities have limited capacity in terms of
knowledge, skills and material resources to manage the systems that are put into place. Fiscal
revenue is likewise inadequate to cover the costs to operate, maintain or replace the
infrastructure when these inevitably deteriorate. Finally, the services are more often than not
delivered to dispersed communities, following isolated agendas, and without an
accompanying understanding of how the provision of these facilities ties into the larger
government framework of water security.

Considering the aforementioned challenges, the Framework outlines several factors that
come into play when working toward achieving sustainability. First, there must be an evident
need or demand for improvement, expressed by the stakeholders themselves, serving as the
basis for a sustained drive for change. This demand must then be channeled into the design
and implementation of programs that seek to address the following aspects: full-user
participation, technology is fit for the purpose and chosen by the users, capital contribution
by users, high quality of implementation, a suitable tariff structure, environmental aspects are
taken into account, and a sufficient monitoring system is established. Upon implementing the
program, efficient and reliable external-support systems must likewise be established to
ensure that the services are managed well. These support systems include the revenues to be
collected and recorded, the upkeep and maintenance of facilities, strong links between user
community and the support organization, environmental monitoring, technical assistance,
and support to supply chains and service providers.

II. Delving into more detail, the Framework ran through certain aspects of sustainability,
highlighting the importance of each.

Demand, as opposed to a mere positive response to offered assistance, refers to the real need
for improved services. Demand is an indispensible precursor to the achievement of
sustainability, for without the collective acknowledgement by the users of the need for
change, and a more or less unanimous commitment to improving the water supply and
sanitation for the sake of privacy, dignity, safety, and cleanliness, the system will inevitably
break down.

The technology utilized in these programs must also be appropriate. Poorly installed
equipment (e.g. rapid corrosion of hand pumps in a Zambia case study) actively reverse the
effects of an investment, adding to the costs, and leaving the communities in a situation worse
than before. The failings of physical infrastructure and poor quality in their construction will
only undermine efforts at maintenance; corruption, short-changing by contractors and the
use of sub-standard materials, and other unprofessional practices must be eliminated through
professionalization of the WASH sector, adequate supervision and monitoring, transparent
procurement procedures, and rigorous enforcement of standards.

Because all services inevitably incur in costs, longevity cannot be achieved unless sources of
revenue, the need for subsidies, and a true understanding of the cost of a service are
considered. Costs must be covered, or the systems will deteriorate, thus the following
concerns must necessarily be addressed: by whom shall the costs be borne, for whom will
they be subsidized, and what form shall the tariff structure take. Hindrances to
implementing a working tariff structure include lack of information as to what the recurrent
costs of a particular service are, revenues do not adequately cover operation and
management costs, and when the poor or disadvantaged are subsidized, the tariff collected by
the rest of the community is not adjusted upward to compensate. As a result, communities do
not look beyond purchase costs, rendering them unable to cope when entire facilities fail to
perform, or deteriorate. Cost-sharing may also be considered as a viable option.

Environmental aspects must be considered to protect to the quality and quantity of water
resources, and to ensure that sanitation services do not pollute the environment and threaten
the health of users. With the pressure placed on the natural environment by exponential
population growth, it is crucial that programs effectively safeguard water resources with
good health as the objective, and conceptualize sanitation not in the simplistic manner of solid
waste disposal, but by viewing the latter as a resource to be safely-reused.

Throughout the process of development, communities are forced to solve major problems
ranging from internal breakdowns of voluntary service for the upkeep of facilities and
technical problems to insufficient revenues for maintenance costs and capital replacement,
and even external interventions such as livelihood or climatic shock. In such cases, external
support management and external technical support must be available to the community;
the former, to serve as intermediaries when management issues and instances of conflict in
relation to sanitation or water supply services cannot be resolved by the households or
communities themselves, and the latter, for when technical problems exceed the service
users ability to cope (e.g. rapid corrosion of hand pumps, damaged piped systems due to
landslides, inundated latrines, saltwater intrusion, etc.). This support must also be prepared
to address changes arising from

Finally, there is a need for governments to provide a stable environment for supply chains to
function properly the sourcing, provision and delivery of equipment lie outside the control
of communities that need access to them, and it is the

Finally, supply chains need a stable environment to function properly. The sourcing, provision
and delivery of necessary machinery involve a complex business process that lies outside of
the water users control. Thus, it is imperative that governments provide support for both
the demand for and quality of supply chains and service providers, whether it be business
support for small scale providers of good and services in the form of registration and
licensing, training and technical assistance, access to capital, financial and administrative
services, or through encouraging capacity-building on the part of communities with regard to
income generation, development of contingency plans, and adapting strategies to reduce


After analyzing the aspects of sustainability, the paper then distilled certain core elements that
formed the basis of Water Aids approach, and arrived at the following conclusion: fulfillment of a
communitys expectations of better services and improved health cannot be attained if the
services granted to water users fall into disrepair after a certain period has passed. Thus,
development in the water sector necessarily incorporates sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and
good stewardship, as measured by improvement in functionality and reduction in costs, all with
longevity in mind.

Sustainability can be achieved only if the following requisites are met:

Real demand from users, evidenced in consistent use of improved water and sanitation
services and the practice of improved hygiene behaviors.
Adequate revenue to cover recurrent costs, with appropriate tariff structures that include
the poorest and most marginalized.
A functioning management and maintenance system, comprising tools, supply chains,
transport, equipment, training, and individuals and institutions with clear responsibilities.
Where systems are managed by communities or institutions, there must be effective external
support to those community-level structures and institutions.
The natural resource and environmental aspects of the system need due attention.

In light of the need for sustainability as outlined above, Water Aid commits to the movement in
three ways. First, on the level of knowledge, Water Aid commits to generating data on the
functionality and sustainability of WASH projects currently in place by maintaining full
inventories of these projects various outcomes, and to maintain records of data to serve as the
basis for studies commissioned from Water Aid, or in support of studies conducted by other
consulting organizations and national monitoring systems. Second, Water Aid commits to the
development of conceptual frameworks for sustainability that are both backward and forward-
looking: backward-looking, in evaluation of how systems have failed or succeeded, and forward-
looking, as prospective analyses of a particular WASH system and improvements that guarantee
that that system shall continue to provide good service. Finally, Water Aid commits to
incorporating sustainability in the design of all its future WASH programs.