Next week as thousands of practitioners gather at annual World Water Week in Sweden the focus is on cooperation, echoing the UN’s declaration of 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation.
The growing gap between safe freshwater supply and water demand is forcing the world to tackle the issue from a new and more collaborative perspective. It calls for cooperation between the government to provide appropriate policies and regulations, the private sector to provide innovation and technology, and civil society to provide inputs from the users.
Is there a model to track citizen experience of water services and present it in a ready-to-use manner for decision makers and the public? Would better articulation of citizen preferences encourage more meaningful engagement with service providers?
When compared to urban water supply, rural areas present a different set of challenges:
Often, the cost per capita of constructing water systems is higher in rural than in urban areas, due to a smaller population which is scattered over a large area. This, in turn, leads to high operating costs, to be recovered by fewer users.
Most importantly, there may not always be an obvious institution to take the responsibility of managing and operating the system after construction. This institutional vacuum leads to poor collection of water fees, and ultimately to poor operation and maintenance of the rural water systems.