The Global Water Initiative (GWI) was an action-research and advocacy programme that ran from 2008-17. The project is now closed. This site is no longer being updated, but allows access to GWI outputs until 1 October 2020 when it will also close. After that date, information about the project and core GWI technical publications will continue to be available from the IIED website and Publications Library.

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People matter: Drinking clean water forever

Access to clean water determines whether babies live beyond infancy, whether they grow healthily, whether children go to school, whether families can eat and earn a living. For this reason, we want to help make sure that West Africa’s vulnerable populations have reliable access to clean water. This means improving:

People matter: Drinking clean water forever

Access – (so that people spend less time collecting water):

  • The water supply should be unlimited and uninterrupted.
  • The distance to collect water should be less than 500m (target set under indicators to deliver the Millennium Development Goals).
  • Queuing is limited, i.e. there should be sufficient collection points (standards vary, but usually one public tap or hand pump per 250 to 500 users).
  • A single round trip to collect water should take less than 30 minutes. Research by the World Health Organisation shows that household water consumption is rapidly reduced if a round trip takes longer than 30 minutes.

Water quality – (so that people always drink clean water):

  • People should take drinking water from a protected water source.
  • Water quality should meet national or international standards for drinking water quality.
  • Drinking water should be handled and stored safely.

We sought to engage local people in the design, implementation and monitoring of sustainable water supply systems, to improve access and water quality. The technologies used included boreholes, protected wells and earth dams.

Our work also involved providing guidance on best practice for domestic water storage facilities and household water consumption.

Most importantly, we wanted to avoid breakdowns in services and so we supported good water supply management systems which depend on both traditional and modern committee structures, and are linked to the decentralised government and the private sector in ways that will strengthen the long-term sustainability of water services. We have focussed on 3 key themes for good water management systems:

  • Making decentralisation work for IWRM: Sustainable water services are managed by the community.
    Locally elected government representatives are now legally responsible for water services, and therefore must be involved in any discussions of good local water management systems.
  • Enabling communities to make well-informed technical choices for hardware: Participation is crucial.
    As well as ensuring quality in construction, communities and technical service providers must first understand the technology choices, their life-cycle costs, the maintenance skills necessary and the external support required, in order to guarantee long-term sustainability of water structures. GWI developed practical guidance and tools related to technical choice, design, construction and M&E, to ensure that appropriate solutions are selected and then implemented with the involvement of both the  end users and the relevant decentralised authorities.
  • Uniting users for sustainability: Lifetime financing must be factored in from the beginning.
    Water provision is not centrally funded by the government, therefore users must pay for their water, and must also know the correct amount to contribute in order to ensure sustainable services (e.g. covering the cost of maintenance, replacement parts etc). But equally there is no point having a good management plan and a well-built water structure if nobody can actually afford the water.

By focusing on the above 3 themes, we seek to improve access and water quality, not just now but forever. In this section you will find project reports and technical tools from our rural water supply programme.