Canadian Consultant Lauds Gov’t Rural Water Supply System


Dr. Andrew Livingstone, Senior Vice President of Canadian management consulting firm, CoWater International, has lauded government’s decision to implement a Rural Water Supply System (RWSP), noting that the project was an important response to the need for water.
He was speaking at the recent opening of the Ministry of Water and Housing’s RWSP workshop on Build and Operate (BO) Contracting for Community Managed Water Systems, at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston.
The new approach for the provision of rural water, involves government underwriting a large portion of the capital cost for putting in water systems, with communities having responsibility for one hundred per cent of the operation and maintenance cost.
Dr. Livingstone pointed out that building and constructing water systems provided a, “big opportunity for the private sector”, as, “there is money to be made in operating and maintaining small water systems”.
The Canadian consultant, who was speaking on the topic, ‘Community and Private Sector Participation in Small Scale Water and Sanitation: trends, experiences and requirements for sustainability’, noted that the growing trend in rural water and sanitation programmes in most countries, was the Demand Response Approach (DRA), which meant that “a programme or a project should respond to demand that is identified and demonstrated by communities in rural areas. rather than giving people what you think they want.”
The most important starting point is project selection, he said, and communities must be the ones to initiate the process. He noted that under the approach, the community becomes heavily involved in the planning and implementation process and typically, they were tripartite contract signers, along with government and the private sector.
Stating that community management programmes took place in an environment of decentralisation, where authority and responsibility was passed down to the district level, Dr. Livingstone said that increasingly, in this decentralised system, local committees, boards, or groups such as the benevolent societies, were responsible for implementing specific development activities.
This body has three options for managing the system; contracting the private sector, setting up a sub-committee to operate the system itself, or hiring staff to operate the pumps.
He noted that in many instances, particularly in smaller systems, operational maintenance was further delegated through Water Point Committees (WPC), where community members were assigned responsibility for managing specific water points and collecting the tariffs.
He informed that this tended not to work with piped systems or schemes with a 5,000 to 6,000 population and that in these situations, direct community operational maintenance or contracting the whole service through the private sector usually proved a better option.
Dr. Livingstone stressed that aside from the fact that providing water systems was an expensive undertaking, ensuring that they operated on a long term sustainable basis was a much more difficult issue. He noted that one extreme was complete privatisation of water services, where users paid for the actual and the full cost of receiving water.
He said that despite this option, there was still need for governments to look at some form of support in water supply for rural areas to ensure that there was equity and access to the resource.

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