Communities Urged to be more Assertive in the Management of Water Systems


If the management of rural water supply systems is to be successful, communities will have to change their attitude and become more assertive in the selection and decision making processes involved in implementing and sustaining such systems.
This was emphasised recently by Senior Vice President of the Canadian management consulting firm, CoWater International, Dr. Andrew Livingstone, at the opening of the Ministry of Water and Housing’s Rural Water and Sanitation Programme (RWSP) workshop on ‘Build and Operate Contracting for Community Managed Water Systems’ in Kingston.
In his presentation on ‘Community and Private Sector Participation in Small Scale Water and Sanitation: Trends, Experiences and Requirements for Sustainability’, Dr. Livingstone explained that changing attitudes was very important to enable the process of community management to take root.
“Communities have to become more assertive and participate in their own development, become involved in selection, decision making and be prepared to take money from their pocket to achieve what they want to achieve. It’s a process of community empowerment,” he stressed.
The Senior Vice President said capacity building at all levels was also a vital component of community management systems, “not only capacity building in the sense of raising technical skills, but particularly management and administrative skills”.
He said that Benevolent Societies, which played a key role in the tripartite agreement with government and the contractors to establish the water systems, would need experience and skills in managing, planning and administrating, particularly in the areas of financial management of water supply.
Turning to tariffs, Dr. Livingstone said willingness to pay was another strong indicator of sustainable water systems. “The kinds of mechanisms, how much you want to charge and how much you need to charge is a very difficult thing to deal with. You need to decide what the tariff is supposed to cover; whether direct cost, labour, supplies or that plus some depreciation of the capital equipment, and if so, how much,” he told the gathering of Ministry officials, contractors and rural residents.
The RWSP is aimed at improving the sanitation and health status of citizens in rural Jamaica; supporting the reduction of poverty; and encouraging citizens to participate in the development of their communities.
This programme is being implemented through four pilot water projects in four parishes involving 15 communities – Whitehorses, Botany Bay and Pamphret, St. Thomas; Gravel Hill, St. Elizabeth; Ffyffes Pen, Cotterwood, Content, Sellington and Shrewbury, St. Mary; and Mile Gully, Athalone, Silver Spring, George Town, Warwick Castle and Tucker in St. Mary.
The Ministry recently signed contracts with Corcel Corporation totalling some $40 million for the supply of material for the White Horses/Pamphret/Botany Bay water supply system.
In each of the areas, the projects are designed in collaboration with the communities, spearheaded by its Benevolent Societies. Government has committed US$12.5 million to the programme through a US$10 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and US$2.5 million from the national budget.
Each community contributes 10 per cent to the construction cost and will be further responsible for the operation, in conjunction with the contractor.
Communities will receive capacity building and training in developing and managing their organisations and projects, and the benevolent societies will contract the builder to operate the project for up to five years or they may chose to operate the system themselves or contract the National Water Commission(NWC)to do so.

JIS Social