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AGUASAN Workshop 24 (2008)

Effective management of operation, maintenance, replacement and upgrading of water supply systems is essential to guarantee the sustainability of the services.

Although community management (communities own, operate and maintain water supply systems themselves) is by far the most widespread approach for rural water supply services in low-income countries, it has often failed to deliver the expected level of sustainability. Hence, there is a strong need for re-examining the approach and for investigating alternative management models. 36 development specialists from around the world gathered in Gwatt (Switzerland) in October 2008 for a week of intensive exchange on this issue within the framework of the 24th AGUASAN workshop. One of the main outputs of the workshop was an analytical framework that can be used to assess potential and limitations of rural water supply management models as a first step towards enhancing the sustainability of rural water supply services. The related publication can be downloaded or ordered in the publications section of the Skat website.

For constituting the base upon which the topic was developed, the workshop featured case studies from Senegal (upgraded community management), Burkina Faso/Kosovo (delegated management), Tanzania (privately owned and managed) and Switzerland (municipal management). The analysis of the case studies confirmed that management models as practised are often characterized by a mix of features from different “theoretical” models. They are very much influenced by the context and their historical development. Nonetheless, a series of trends and challenges to tackle can be highlighted:

  • The existence of a legal framework clearly defining roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders is one common element of successful models.
  • In countries that are in the process of decentralization, local authorities have to play a central role in the management of water services.
  • A general trend towards delegation of water supply system management can be observed.
  • The private sector plays an important role in all case studies analyzed, and attractiveness for private sector involvement needs to be enhanced.
  • Capacity building is a crucial issue to tackle in order to improve the management of water services regardless of the type of management model.
  • External dependency for the replacement of long term assets or system extension is considered as one of the threats to most management models.

AGUASAN workshops undergo an annual cycle of preparation, organisation, realisation and assessment conducted by the steering committee made up of representatives of SDC (funder), Helvetas, Eawag/Sandec and Skat. Skat (Roger Schmid) heads the steering committee and bears overall responsibility for organising and conducting the workshop series.