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 This site is no longer being updated, but allows access to GWI outputs until 1 October 2020 when it will also close.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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Designing systems for sustainable community-managed water services

When water users participate in decision-making and take ownership of local water systems, these systems are much more likely to function sustainably. Additionally, now that across West Africa, locally elected government representatives are legally responsible for water services, they must be involved in any discussions of good local water management systems. Recognising this, we sought to support communities and local government to work together in managing their own water services effectively.

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 helped improve communication and co-operation between water user associations and local government (via Municipal Water Days, for example), as well as providing technical training for local water committees.

The documents listed below are just a few practical examples of how GWI approached the design of systems for sustainable community-managed water services in West Africa.



GWI commissioned this assessment of Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) committees in the Upper West region of Ghana, 3 years into their operations. Each of the 32 project communities in this region have a WATSAN committee, composed of approximately 9 local people (men and women).

Maintaining water facilities and infrastructure is a widespread challenge in the Malian section of the Sourou sub-basin.

Municipal Water Days are an opportunity for fruitful 2-way communication between local people and their elected officials. This document describes in detail the successes and challenges of organising municipal water days in the Komondjari province of Burkina Faso.

Multiple Water Use Systems, as the name implies, makes the assumption that water is required for multiple purposes, thereby sidestepping the conventional tension between domestic water supplies and water for irrigation.

Given their shared water resources, the necessity for cross-border collaboration is clear to both communities and governments of Burkina Faso and Mali.

The roles and responsibilities of each key member of the Sourou Cross-border Integrated Resource Management Committee (CGTS) are outlined in this document.

Nomadic pastoralists are important for the livestock industry in Ghana and across West Africa, but conflict often arises when they must share the same natural resources as settled agricultural communities.

This is a practical example of a co-funding agreement in Mali. GWI partner CARE International and the Malian commune of Sokoura jointly funded a large well in Mankanou village.

Communication is often poor between local people and the officials in charge of managing rural water resources. Municipal Water Days (MWDs) aim to bridge this gap and foster mutual understanding and collaboration.

Inter-municipal water days are a fun and useful way of running community water and sanitation training with several municipalities simultaneously, as well as providing an opportunity for fruitful 2-way communication between local people and their elected representatives.

GWI tested the water quality of 50 boreholes in Sirba, Burkina Faso, examining an extensive range of physical and chemical properties.

This report documents GWI’s experience of setting up a pilot Local Water Committee in Madaoua, in the sub-basin of the Tarka Valley in Niger. We chose this area because it lies at the heart of the most vulnerable part of the Tarka Valley flood plain.

Local Water Committees are a key link in the chain of governance of water resources, providing a front line response to resolving any issues arising locally.

Over recent years, water resources in the Mopti region of Mali have diminished, whilst demand for water has steadily increased.

The Joint Technical Committee formed by this agreement represents an official collaboration on water resource management between Mali and Burkina Faso.