Our work in rural water supply service delivery addresses institutional and regulatory aspects, finance and economics, political economy, technology, climate change, and water science.
Transitioning to safely managed water services: Risks and opportunities of self-supply for vulnerable populations
Client: DFAT/GHD Water for Women Fund Coordinator
This research evaluates risks and opportunities associated with on-premises, self-supply water sources and how they might support or undermine transitions towards safely-managed services for poor households across Asia-Pacific. The work focuses on areas lacking piped water, including densely-populated low-income urban areas in Indonesia and climate-affected islands in Vanuatu.
More than 800 million people in Asia-Pacific depend on self-supply sources that are owned, managed and invested in by individual households. However, they are unregulated, unmonitored and little is known about the extent to which they provide safely-managed water services to poor households.
This research will support policymakers and practitioners engage with self-supply and enhance understanding of self-supply water sources in terms of:
(i) prevalence, trends and typologies;
(ii) conditions that influence their adoption among poor households
(iii) their quality, reliability and cost, the factors that impact these parameters (especially sanitation and climate) and implications for health and gender;
(iv) appropriate policy responses and practices to minimise risks, maximise benefits and inform sector financing. Gender and inclusion will be central themes for all lines of enquiry
Rural water supply in Vanuatu: assessment of coverage and service levels
This project sought to characterise the coverage and service levels delivered by rural water supply systems in Vanuatu. The assessment was based on data from the country’s rural water supply inventory, which comprises information on almost 5,000 water sources across 46 islands. Performance measures assessed included functionality, service continuity, gender equity, and sanitary conditions.
Foster, T., Kohlitz, J & Rand, E. (forthcoming) Rural water supply in Vanuatu: assessment of coverage and service levels. UNICEF Technical Note. UNICEF: Port Vila
Foster, T., Rand, E., Sami, E., Dance, B., Kohlitz, J., & Willetts, J. (2019). Does the source of water for piped supplies affect child health? Evidence from rural Vanuatu. Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, 9(3): 591-595.
Beyond the Finish Line: Inclusive and Sustainable Rural Water Supply Services in Nepal
Client: SNV Netherlands Development Organisation
Rural areas in Nepal have high coverage of basic water supplies, but it is not clear whether everyone receives acceptable quality drinking water, and climate change threatens to disrupt water system sustainability. This research examines two areas: 1) Drivers of water contamination in rural area of Nepal and how these can be addressed, and 2) Service provider strategies for maintaining water service levels against climate impacts. Addressing these areas is critical for meeting safely managed water criteria and sustaining service levels.
Responding to climate change to sustain community-managed water services in Vanuatu
Clear conceptualisation of the different ways that community-managed water services are affected by and sustained against climate change is needed to inform appropriate adaptation interventions.
This research project examined the impacts of climate change on two communities in rural Vanuatu using risk-hazard, vulnerability, and social-ecological system resilience perspectives, and developed a conceptual framework to facilitate interdisciplinary research on climate change impacts on community-managed water services.
Kohlitz, J., Chong, J. & Willetts, J. (2017) Climate change vulnerability and resilience of water, sanitation, and hygiene services: a theoretical perspective. Journal of Water Sanitation and Hygiene for Development 7 (2), 181-195
Sustaining rural water services against climate change in Vanuatu: A project brief (Open access version)
Responding to climate change to sustain community-managed water services in Vanuatu – PhD thesis
Evaluation of WaterCredit Project, India
Microfinance is a key pathway to support access to WASH services.
This project is examining the impact of a water and sanitation microfinance initiative in urban India. The assessment included a large household survey, focus group discussions, key informant interviews.
Groundwater and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa
Client: UPGro programme
A commissioned systematic review of the relationship between groundwater and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. The work featured as Chapter 5 of the report ‘Groundwater and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa’.
Enterprise in WASH
Client: Australian Development Research Scheme Award (ADRAS) Grant
This research investigated the role of small-scale enterprises in sustainable WASH service delivery, with a focus on equitable outcomes for the poor. Conducted in partnership with civil society organisations and local research institutions in Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Research outputs focused specifically on rural water supply include:
Working Paper 4: Traits, drivers and barriers of water and sanitation entrepreneurs and enterprises in Indonesia, Vietnam and Timor-Leste (Working paper)
Research Report 3: Motivators and barriers for water and sanitation enterprises in Indonesia (Full report) (Summary – English) (Summary – Bahasa Indonesia)
Research Report 4: Motivators and barriers for water enterprises in Vietnam (Full report) (Summary – English) (Summary - Vietnamese)
Grant, M., Dominish, E., Carrard, N., Buy, L., Ha, H., Nghiem, T. and Willetts, J. (2016), Reducing or increasing inequalities? The role of private water enterprises in rural Viet Nam, Development Bulletin, No 77
Willetts, J. Murta, J., Gero, A., Carrard, N. & Harris, D. 2015 Political economy influences on enterprise engagement in Indonesia, Vietnam and Timor-Leste, Refereed Paper, 38th WEDC International Conference, Loughborough University, UK, July 2015
Blue Pump performance evaluation
The BluePump is an emerging rural water supply technology, which utilises lever-action reciprocating handpump technology as an alternative to mainstream hand pump technology in rural sub-Saharan Africa.
Claims about the BluePump's durability and minimal maintenance requirements have provoked significant interest in the rural water sector. However, there are questions about the BluePump's initial cost, maintenance cost, and operational performance
In partnership with Oxfam, in the context of Kenya and the Gambia, ISF-UTS assessed the Blue Pump’s operational performance and other factors affecting the suitability and sustainability of the Blue Pump.
Foster T, McSorley B, Willetts J (2016), Preliminary results from an evaluation of the Blue Pump in Turkana, Kenya, 7th RWSN Forum “Water for Everyone”, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire - Journal Article
Foster, T., McSorley, B., & Willetts, J. (2019). Comparative performance evaluation of handpump water-supply technologies in northern Kenya and The Gambia. Hydrogeology Journal, 27(2), 535-551.
Rural water entrepreneurs: prevalence, predictors and prospects
This project investigates the role and impact of market-based approaches to rural water service delivery in Asia and Africa.
Based on fieldwork in Cambodia, Vanuatu and Sierra Leone, the research evaluates the prevalence, success factors, motivations and sustainability implications of rural water entrepreneurs.
This research applies critical mass theory to community waterpoint financial contributions in rural sub-Saharan Africa for the first time, to explain the initiation and spread of community behaviours. It also suggests that there is a tension between financial sustainability and universal access to water and sanitation, which requires further examination to ensure that rural water services are both sustainable and inclusive.
Foster, T. & Willetts, J (2018) ‘Multiple water source use in rural Vanuatu: are households choosing the safest option for drinking?’ International Journal of Environmental Health Research. DOI: 10.1080/09603123.2018.1491953
Foster, T., et al (2018), Factors associated with operational sustainability of rural water supplies in Cambodia, Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, 2018
Foster, T., et al. (2018), Risk factors associated with rural water supply failure: A 30-year retrospective study of handpumps on the south coast of Kenya, Science of the Total Environment 626 (2018) 156-164 (open access journal article)
Foster, T. and Hope, R. (2017), Evaluating waterpoint sustainability and access implications of revenue collection approaches in rural Kenya, Water Resources Research, Volume 52, Issue 2, 1473-1490 (journal article)
Foster, T. (2017), A critical mass analysis of community-based financing of water services in rural Kenya, Water Resources and Rural Development, Volume 10, 1-13
Sustainable service delivery in Timor-Leste
Client: Australian aid program Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (BESIK)
The Timor-Leste rural water supply sector faces a range of challenges, including imbalances between capital investment and recurrent costs, limitations in technical oversight and cases of poor quality construction.
The current institutional framework places communities as responsible for the operation and maintenance of small rural water systems. However, a balance needs to be struck between community and government responsibility.
Improving the sustainability of rural water service provision in Timor-Leste requires reorientation of the sector from an infrastructure focus to a service delivery approach.
This research provided recommendations on ways to shift the institutional arrangements for Timor Leste’s rural water supply sector from the current infrastructure focus, to a service delivery approach able to provide on-going sustainable services to rural populations.
See WASH evaluations and other resources for evaluations that include rural water supply.