Tim Foster is a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Futures. His current research investigates the role of entrepreneurs and enterprise in rural water service delivery in Asia and Africa. His areas of expertise include rural water supply sustainability, operation and maintenance systems, water service financing, and the water-health nexus. Tim has been involved in both the implementation and evaluation of rural WASH programmes in numerous countries across Asia and Africa. He also has experience implementing public health programs to combat neglected tropical diseases, including guinea worm eradication in South Sudan and scabies control in remote Indigenous communities in Australia.
Tim has a doctorate from the University of Oxford, where he examined the financial sustainability and collective action dimensions of handpump water supplies on the South Coast of Kenya. He also holds an MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management from Oxford University, a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from the University of Melbourne and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Melbourne.
Can supervise: YES
Foster, T, Willetts, J, Lane, M, Thomson, P, Katuva, J & Hope, R 2018, 'Risk factors associated with rural water supply failure: A 30-year retrospective study of handpumps on the south coast of Kenya.', The Science of the total environment, vol. 626, pp. 156-164.View/Download from: Publisher's site
An improved understanding of failure risks for water supplies in rural sub-Saharan Africa will be critical to achieving the global goal of safe water for all by 2030. In the absence of longitudinal biophysical and operational data, investigations into water point failure risk factors have to date been limited to cross-sectional research designs. This retrospective cohort study applies survival analysis to identify factors that predict failure risks for handpumps installed on boreholes along the south coast of Kenya from the 1980s. The analysis is based on a unique dataset linking attributes of >300 water points at the time of installation with their operational lifespan over the following decades. Cox proportional hazards and accelerated failure time models suggest water point failure risks are higher and lifespans are shorter when water supplied is more saline, static water level is deeper, and groundwater is pumped from an unconsolidated sand aquifer. The risk of failure also appears to grow as distance to spare part suppliers increases. To bolster the sustainability of rural water services and ensure no community is left behind, post-construction support mechanisms will need to mitigate heterogeneous environmental and geographical challenges. Further studies are needed to better understand the causal pathways that underlie these risk factors in order to inform policies and practices that ensure water services are sustained even where unfavourable conditions prevail.
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, pp. 1-11.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Households in low- and middle-income countries commonly make use of multiple water sources. However, it remains unclear to what extent their drinking water choices are optimal from a health perspective. This matched cohort study across 10 islands in Vanuatu examined communities with both a groundwater and rainwater source to determine whether their preferred drinking option was the safest in microbial terms. In communities that preferred to drink rainwater, 56.5% of rainwater sources had 'high-risk' or 'very high risk' Escherichia coli contamination (> 10 MPN/100 mL) compared with 26.1% of groundwater sources (p = 0.092). Moreover, a preference for drinking rainwater was significantly associated with rainwater sources having 'high-risk' or 'very high risk' levels of E. coli contamination (p = 0.045). Results show that communities do not necessarily choose the safest water source for drinking. Findings also highlight the need to bolster local capacity to manage water quality risks and for Sustainable Development Goal monitoring to distinguish between protected and unprotected rainwater tanks.
Foster, T., Shantz, A., Lala, S. & Willetts, J. 2018, 'Factors associated with operational sustainability of rural water supplies in Cambodia', Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Foster, T & Hope, R 2017, 'Evaluating waterpoint sustainability and access implications of revenue collection approaches in rural Kenya', Water Resources Research, vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 1473-1490.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Water policies in many sub-Saharan African countries stipulate that rural communities are responsible for self-financing their waterpoint's operation and maintenance. In the absence of policy consensus or evidence on optimal payment models, rural communities adopt a diversity of approaches. This study empirically assesses waterpoint sustainability and access outcomes associated with different revenue collection approaches on the south coast of Kenya. The analysis draws on a unique data set comprising financial records spanning 27 years and 100 communities, operational performance indicators for 200 waterpoints, and water source choices for more than 2,000 households. Results suggest communities collecting pay-as-you-fetch fees on a volumetric basis generate higher levels of income and experience improved operational performance compared with communities charging flat fees. In both cases, financial flows mirror seasonal rainfall peaks and troughs. These outcomes are tempered by evidence that households are more likely to opt for an unimproved drinking water source when a pay-as-you-fetch system is in place. The findings illuminate a possible tension between financial sustainability and universal access. If the Sustainable Development Goal of 'safe water for all' is to become a reality, policymakers and practitioners will need to address this issue and ensure rural water services are both sustainable and inclusive.
Foster, T. 2017, 'A critical mass analysis of community-based financing of water services in rural Kenya', Water Resources and Rural Development, vol. 10, pp. 1-13.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2017 Elsevier B.V. Critical mass dynamics have been widely used to explain the initiation and spread of collective behaviours, from protests and political representation, through to vaccinations and adoption of new technologies. For the first time, this study applies critical mass theory to community waterpoint financial contributions in rural sub-Saharan Africa. The presence of critical mass points, cooperative equilibria and self-reinforcing growth dynamics is empirically evaluated through assessment of multi-decadal waterpoint financial records from rural Kenya, comprising 43,020 household payments over a 26 year period. An examination of month-to-month changes in user contribution rates and financial record continuity suggests contribution levels remain relatively stable once more than 60% of water users are paying. Revenue collection systems tend to become unstable and are prone to collapse during the wet season if user contributions drop below a 60% threshold, but appear to be more resilient in dry season with evidence of self-reinforcing growth dynamics when 40–60% of users contribute. Results reveal that some communities are able to sustain their waterpoint over a long period of time even if a moderate proportion of users do not contribute financially. The analysis also highlights the influence of climate patterns on community-based financing, and the fragility of collective behaviours during wetter periods. Further investigation is needed to assess what dynamics emerge in a more representative sample of waterpoints, particularly in the first few years after installation when failures commonly occur.
Foster, T & Hope, R 2016, 'A multi-decadal and social-ecological systems analysis of community waterpoint payment behaviours in rural Kenya', Journal of Rural Studies, vol. 47, pp. 85-96.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Lokuge, B., Kopczynski, A., Woltmann, A., Alvoen, F., Connors, C., Guyula, T., Mulholland, E., Cran, S., Foster, T., Lokuge, K., Burke, T. & Prince, S. 2014, 'Crusted scabies in remote Australia, a new way forward: lessons and outcomes from the East Arnhem Scabies Control Program', Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 200, no. 11, pp. 644-648.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Foster, T 2013, 'Predictors of sustainability for community-managed handpumps in sub-Saharan Africa: evidence from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda.', Environmental science & technology, vol. 47, no. 21, pp. 12037-12046.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Rural water supply sustainability has remained an enduring policy challenge in sub-Saharan Africa for decades. Drawing on the largest data set assembled on rural water points in sub-Saharan Africa to date, this paper employs logistic regression analyses to identify operational, technical, institutional, financial, and environmental predictors of functionality for over 25000 community-managed handpumps in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. Risk factors significantly associated with nonfunctionality across all three countries were (a) system age, (b) distance from district/county capital, and (c) absence of user fee collection. In at least one of the three countries, other variables found to have significant multivariable adjusted associations with functionality status included well type, handpump type, funding organization, implementing organization, spare parts proximity, availability of a handpump mechanic, regular servicing, regular water committee meetings, women in key water committee positions, rainfall season, and perceived water quality. While the findings reinforce views that a multifaceted range of conditions is critical for the sustainability of community-managed handpumps, they also demonstrate that these factors remain absent from a high proportion of cases. Governments and development partners must significantly strengthen postconstruction support for operation and maintenance systems, and greater efforts are needed to test and evaluate alternative models for managing handpump water supplies.
Foster, T, Hope, R, Thomas, M, Cohen, I, Krolikowski, A & Nyaga, C 2012, 'Impacts and implications of mobile water payments in East Africa', Water International, vol. 37, no. 7, pp. 788-804.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
The rapid growth in Africa's mobile communications sector offers new opportunities to address the continent's enduring water service challenges. This paper examines the impacts and implications of mobile water payments in East Africa. Based on interviews with managers from water service providers across four countries and analysis of household survey and billing data from a water supply scheme in Kenya, the study quantifies the impacts of mobile water payments and reveals the factors that drive and curtail customer adoption. Results suggest that if broader behavioural and operational constraints can be overcome, partnerships between mobile network operators and water service providers could lead to more sustainable water service access for inclusive, developmental outcomes. © 2012 Copyright 2012 International Water Resources Association.
Water security aims to provide safe, reliable, affordable and sufficient water for people, agriculture, industry and ecosystems, subject to societal choices across related trade-offs and risks. Managing resource risks, delivering effective governance, promoting financial sustainability and achieving social equity are central to achieving water security. We explore how innovations in mobile communications have created an inclusive, secure and low cost architecture for financial and data flows to reduce risk and enhance water security. In Africa, water security challenges associated with climate extremes and population growth outstripping improved water services' access are juxtaposed with its global lead in mobile commerce innovations, including mobile water payments. Market driven expansion of mobile network coverage and low cost, mobile handsets mean more Africans will be connected to mobile phone services than those receiving improved water services in 2012. The confluence of rapid mobile network expansion, mobile phone ownership, mobile water payments and smart metering technologies offer new policy pathways to water security to accelerate progress on sustainable, safe water access, particularly for those in the greatest need and those most difficult to reach. We chart emerging mobile water innovations in Africa and policy implications in the region and beyond. Policy Implications: * Mobile communication innovations offer an inclusive, secure and low cost architecture for financial and data flows that can reduce or share risk to enhance water security. * The confluence of mobile network coverage, mobile phone ownership, mobile water payments and smart water metering technologies has significant but uncharted potential to enhance water security. * Innovations are being driven by the commercial interests of mobile network operators with the distributional impacts and implications yet to be evaluated or shaped by policy and governance regimes. * Living in rural a...
Thomson, P, Hope, R & Foster, T 2012, 'GSM-enabled remote monitoring of rural handpumps: A proof-of-concept study', Journal of Hydroinformatics, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 829-839.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
The continued expansion of mobile network coverage in rural Africa provides an opportunity for simple and low-cost hydroinformatic innovations to measure and transmit data on handpump use for policy and management improvements. We design, build and test a Waterpoint Data Transmitter to determine its robustness, functionality and scalability. Results demonstrate that this novel application using simple microprocessor, accelerometer and global system for mobile communications (GSM) components has significant potential in recording graduated time-step information flows of lever pumps which can be modelled into a reasonable water volume use approximation. Given the systemic informational deficit for rural waterpoints in Africa, where one in three handpumps is likely to be non-functioning, this innovation has the potential to provide universal, low-cost and immediate data to guide timely maintenance responses and planning decisions, as well as drive greater accountability and transparency in donor and government behaviour. © IWA Publishing 2012.
Thomson, P., Hope, R.A. & Foster, T. 2012, 'Is silence golden? of mobiles, monitoring,and rural water supplies', Waterlines, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 280-292.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Reliable and cost-effective monitoring of rural water supply infrastructure has long been hampered by the geographical curse of dispersed and low-income populations, and weak institutional performance. Recent advances in monitoring technology combined with mobile network expansion into rural areas has created an opportunity to bypass these seemingly intractable challenges. Mobile-enhanced technologies have the potential to produce data that is orders of magnitude richer, faster, and cheaper than that provided by traditional monitoring methods, which require costly field visits. However, more data does not equate to better data; information generated by crowdsourced and automated systems each has its respective limitations. We propose a framework for analysing monitoring and surveillance systems, which can help assess the strengths and weaknesses of different emerging approaches. We suggest that these advancements present an opportunity to fundamentally change the way we consider and conduct rural water supply monitoring. © Practical Action Publishing, 2012.
Foster, T., Katuva, J. & Hope, R. 2017, 'Multi-decadal financial assessment of groundwater services for low-income households in rural Kenya', 44th IAH Congress 2017, Dubrovnik.
Foster, T., Dance, B. & Willetts, J. 2017, 'Unfinished Business: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Remote Indigenous Communities in Australia's Northern Territory', Water and Health Conference, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA, pp. 62-63.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) outcomes for the ~60,000 Indigenous people living in remote communities in Australia's Northern Territory (NT) remains an important but unresolved policy challenge. Despite major national reforms aimed at bolstering Australia's
water security over the last decade, the WASH situation in remote Indigenous communities (RICs) has attracted little attention. This study sheds new light on this issue by assessing the status of WASH indicators (access, behaviours, health outcomes) and identifying obstacles that
constrain progress. Up-to-date information on access to WASH services in RICs in NT is scant. We piece together historical data to deduce that there is now almost universal access to improved water sources and sanitation facilities. At least 90% of dwellings currently have a piped water supply and a private sanitation facility. In the 72 largest communities, the quantity of water used by households is far greater than the Australian average, and regular testing reveals the water supplied is of good microbiological quality. The main infrastructure shortfalls -
in terms of access, reliability and safety - can be found in the more than 400 small homeland communities, most of which have a population of less than 50. Notwithstanding nearly universal access to services, the burden of WASH-related diseases remains substantial. Indigenous
children in remote communities are twice as likely to be hospitalised for intestinal infection as non-Indigenous children. Environmental enteropathy and prevalence of intestinal parasitic infestation (e.g. Strongyloides) provide further markers of excreta-related disease transmission. Trachoma remains endemic in many RICs despite repeated mass drug administrations. Skin infections are also prevalent, and these are thought to underlie disproportionately high rates of acute glomerulonephritis and acute rheumatic fever, both of which lead to chronic and life-threatening kidney and heart disease...
Foster, T., Katuva, J. & Hope, R. 2017, 'Multi-decadal financial assessment of groundwater services for low-income households in rural Kenya', 44th IAH Congress 2017, Dubrovnik.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Sustainable financing of groundwater-based drinking water supplies in rural Africa poses one of the biggest obstacles to the global Sustainable Development Goal of safely managed water for all by 2030. Hand-pumped groundwater is the chief mode of supplying safe drinking water to rural populations in Africa, yet around one in three systems is non-functional in part due to a failure of users to pay the costs of ongoing operation and maintenance. Yet there is little empirical evidence about what factors determine rural communities' capacity to collect revenue from users, and the implications this has for the operational sustainability of services and the water source choices of users. We present findings from a unique study that assesses community-based financing of groundwater services in Kwale (Kenya), the location for one of the first ever large-scale programmes involving handpump-equipped boreholes in rural Africa. The study draws on longitudinal financial records kept by 100 water user groups over three decades, coupled with hydrogeological, community, and household-level data collected from over 500 waterpoints and 3,000 households. We find that among those communities collecting fees on a monthly basis, around one in four households fails to pay in the long-run. Multivariable regression analysis reveals that waterpoints that (i) are situated close to households, (ii) draw on groundwater with a pH above 6.5, (iii) produce palatable water, and (iv) support productive water use activities have significantly higher levels of payment compliance. Payment levels are also strongly related to rainfall patterns, suggestive of complex and dynamic decisions about water source preferences. Those communities charging water users on a pay-as-you-fetch volumetric basis generate the highest levels of revenue, and this translates into significantly shorter breakdown durations. Yet this revenue collection approach is also associated with a higher proportion of households using ...
Foster, T., McSorley, B. & Willetts, J. 2016, 'Preliminary results from an evaluation of the Blue Pump in Turkana, Kenya', 7 th RWSN Forum 'Water for Everyone, Rural Water Supply Network Forum (RWSN), RWSN, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
This paper presents the preliminary results of an evaluation of the Blue Pump in Turkana County, Kenya. Field work was carried out at 142 waterpoints to comparatively assess the operational performance and water user experiences for the Blue Pump. In order to appraise the broader factors affecting the suitability and sustainability of the Blue Pump, a group of key stakeholders was also convened to apply the Technology Applicability Framework. While 1 in 3 Blue Pumps in Turkana was found to be nonfunctional, breakdowns were less frequent than for the India Mark II and Afridev. Users of the Blue Pump were more satisfied with the reliability of their water service than those using other handpump types, but the difficulty of operation was a prominent complaint. In the Turkana context, the Blue Pump appears to be a more reliable handpump than the India Mark II and Afridev, bearing in mind its higher upfront cost. However, its full value will only be realised if coupled with effective and sustainable maintenance arrangements for which users are willing and able to pay.
Kopczynski, A., Foster, T., Saroukos, C. & Patterson, B. 2013, 'Washing machine djäma: The East Arnhem Spin Project', 9th NATSIEH Conference Monograph, 9th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference, Adelaide, pp. 75-77.
Baguma, A., Bizoza, A., Carter, R., Cavill, S., Foster, S., Foster, T., Jobbins, G., Hope, R., Katuva, J., Koehler, J., Shepherd, A. & Simons, A. Skat Foundation 2017, Groundwater and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, pp. 1-105, St Gallen.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Foster, T. Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship 2016, Water and sanitation microfinance operations in India: An assessment of challenges and determinants of success, Oxford.
This report presents the results of an evaluation of the Fairwater BluePump, an emerging
rural water supply technology in sub-Saharan Africa. Claims about the BluePump's
durability and minimal maintenance requirements have provoked significant interest within
the rural water sector. This evaluation set out to assess the suitability of the BluePump as
a rural water supply technology, taking into account its operational performance, the
experiences of water users, the views of local stakeholders, and the broader contextual
factors that impinge upon its sustainability.
Foster, T., Hope, R. & Thomson, P. Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, Oxford University 2015, Insuring against rural water risk: Evidence from Kwale, Kenya, Oxford.
Foster, T. 2018, 'Long lasting rural water supplies in tough environments: lessons from Kenya', UpGro.
Foster, T. 2017, 'Possibilities and pitfalls of community-based financing of water supplies in rural Kenya', Oxford University.
Foster, T. 2016, 'Gambian Handpump Evaluation Data'.
Foster, T. 2016, 'Handpumps Joined at the Hip: Two-for-one or Double Trouble?', Water Point Data Exchange.
Foster, T. 2016, 'Turkana Handpump Evaluation Data'.