What happens after a well is drilled, fitted with a hand pump, and a community celebrates having access to clean water for the first time? Half of them break down in a year.
When a community lacks sufficient resources and training, these wells would be rendered un-usable; however, a new study by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s (UNC) Water Institute and Water and Sanitation for Africa, a Pan-African humanitarian agency, found that if local water communities collect fees for repairs and train community members to fix the wells, they can remain in use for decades. This was reported by World Vision in September 2014.
The scientists studied 1,470 wells in the Greater Afram Plains region of Ghana. A total of 898 of those wells were drilled by World Vision. The study found that wells were significantly more likely to be functioning if the community had both a local water committee and fee collection system in place.
In communities where World Vision operates, local water, sanitation and hygiene committees are established to manage every new water point. The committees, comprised entirely of local residents, collect fees for the usage and repair of the wells. The organisation also provides the committees with tool kits and comprehensive training on maintaining and repairing wells when they inevitably break down. The formation and training of committees is now standard practice across many government and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and this study appears to strongly validate this approach.
Models for fee collection vary among communities, with some opting for monthly fees and oth-ers charging a few pennies for every water jug that is collected.
The study found that 45 per cent of all wells broke down in the past twelve months; however, the majority of the wells drilled by World Vision were repaired and remained operational for years to come.
The scientists agree that local ownership and accountability are key to ensuring that access to clean water remains after charities and NGOs leave.