Water donors need to ensure community ownership.
Nearly half of all donated water points in Africa fail or become dysfunctional within 18 months of construction – due mainly to a failure to manage or maintain them properly.
The Africa Water Bank estimates that approximately 50,000 water points in Africa (with a value in excess of $US500 million) constructed in the last five years are now not working properly or not working at all.
Well intentioned donors often fail to take into account critical factors that can mean the difference between a successful or a failed community water point.
Research shows that water points where communities have been closely involved in each stage of development and have contributed something towards their cost are likely to be successful. Community ownership is a key factor.
Appropriate technology is also important. The community needs to have the ability to undertake the bulk of maintenance and repair in its own right – which means choosing the right technology in the first place – and then training people within the community to undertake the maintenance.
It is often better to have a straight forward functioning rain water harvesting system with high capacity storage – which a community can maintain – as opposed to a deep borehole with a generator and submersible pump that no one in the community can repair when it breaks down – which it inevitably will.
A strong community water management committee is another factor for success. A successful water point is always properly managed, well maintained and usually one where community members pay a small usage fee to cover maintenance and ongoing running and development costs. It costs money to provide clean water.
Finally a well fenced water point with animal troughs outside of the fence and strategically placed trees and pit latrines located at appropriate distances from the water point are also important success factors.