Sustainable rural water supply in Africa: rhetoric and reality

2006-06-02T10:16:27Z (GMT) by Peter Harvey Robert Reed
The terms 'sustainability' and ‘sustainable’ can be found repeatedly throughout Government policy documents and the mission statements of external agencies in the rural water supply sector in Africa. However, how many institutions in the sector are truly committed to the concept of sustainability, or have a firm idea of what it means? This paper is based on research undertaken at the Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC) under DFIDfunded Knowledge and Research project ‘Guidelines for Sustainable Handpump Projects in Africa’ (R7817). The early stages of the research identified a surprising range of definitions of sustainability and perceptions of what the term means. Based on existing literature and definitions, for the purposes of the project a sustainable rural water supply has been defined as one in which: ‘the water sources are not over-exploited but naturally replenished, facilities are maintained in a condition which ensures a reliable and adequate water supply, the benefits of the supply continue to be realised by all users over a prolonged period of time, and the service delivery process demonstrates a cost-effective use of resources that can be replicated’.