International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 60, Issue 8, pp 977–986 | Cite as

Governance and functionality of community water schemes in rural Ethiopia

  • Kelly T. AlexanderEmail author
  • Yihenew Tesfaye
  • Robert Dreibelbis
  • Bekele Abaire
  • Matthew C. Freeman
Original Article



A key challenge for achieving universal water access in Sub-Saharan Africa is poor sustainability of water schemes. Previous studies have posited factors that may lead to failed schemes; however, empirical data are lacking.


We conducted direct observations of water sources and interviewed water committee members about governance in two regions of Ethiopia. Based on direct observation at each water point, and harmonizing previous research in the sector, we developed an ordinal measure of functionality. Among functional systems, linear regression models were used to assess changes in score or level of functionality against governance characteristics.


Of 89 water schemes over 5 years old, 82 had sufficient data to receive a score. Higher functionality scores were associated with having good records, meeting regularly, financial audits, higher monthly fees, a paid caretaker and water committees with capacity to perform minor repairs.


Our continuous measure of functionality was simple to derive, objective and may be widely applicable for further studies assessing key indicators of sustainability.


Water Governance Sustainability Functionality 



We are grateful to Girma Aboma of WaterAid, Ethiopia and Carlos Sanchez of Catholic Relief Services, Ethiopia for their contributions to this research. Roza Abesha Feyisa supported the fieldwork in SNNPR. The project was conducted in collaboration with the Millennium Water Alliance with the financial support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Susan Dundon of The Millennium Water Alliance provided comments to earlier versions of this manuscript. Thanks especially to Rachel P. Chase who lent us her statistical expertise.

Supplementary material

38_2015_675_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (186 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 185 kb)


  1. Adank M, Kumasi T (2013) Sustainability index of WASH activities. Ghana Country Report. USAID and Rotary International. Accessed 15 April 2014
  2. Addai E (2012) Sustainability of rural water supply: facilities in Africa: socio-cultural and demographic factors. SWSD Policy Brief, WSA. 1. Accessed on 14 April 2014
  3. CARE USA Water Team (2012) Assessing water point sustainability in Northern Mozambique. Accessed 15 April 2014
  4. Ademiluyi IA, Odugbesan JA (2008) Sustainability and impact of community water supply and sanitation programmes in Nigeria: an overview. Afr J Agric Res 3:811–817Google Scholar
  5. Behrens-Shah P (2011) Sustainability of water supply systems in Kenya., Welthungerhilfe. Accessed 15 April 2014
  6. Beyene HA (2012) Factors affecting the sustainability of rural water supply systems: the case of Mecha Woreda, Amhara region, Ethiopia. Master of Professional Studies, Cornell University. Accessed on 4 March 2014
  7. Carter R, Tyrell SF, Howsam P (1996) Strategies for hand pump water supply programmes in less developed countries. J Chart Inst Water Environ Manag 10:130–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carter RC, Tyrrel SF, Howsam P (1999) Impact and sustainability of community water supply and sanitation programmes in developing countries. J Chart Inst Water Environ Manag 13:292–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carter RC, Harvey E, Casey V (2010) User financing of rural handpump water services. IRC Symposium: pumps, pipes and promises. Accessed 14 April 2014
  10. Clasen TF (2012) Millennium Development Goals water target claim exaggerates achievement. Tropical Med Int Health 17:1178–1180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Giné Garriga R, Perez-Foguet A (2008) Sustainability assessment of national rural water supply program in Tanzania. Nat Resour Forum 32:17Google Scholar
  12. Godfrey S, Freitas M, Muianga A, Amaro M, Fernadez P, Sousa Mosies L (2009) Sustainability check: a monitoring tool for the sustainability of rural water supplies. WEDC International Conference, Addis Ababa. Accessed 15 April 2014
  13. Harvey P, Reed R (2003) Sustainable rural water supply in Africa: rhetoric and reality. 29th WEDC International Conference: towards the Millennium Development Goals, Abuja, Nigeria. Accessed 16 April 2014
  14. Harvey P, Reed R (2004) Rural water supply in Africa: building blocks for sustainability. Loughborough University, UK, Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC). Accessed 15 April 2014
  15. Harvey P, Reed R (2007) Community-managed water supplies in Africa: sustainable or dispensable? Commun Dev J 42:365–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hoko Z, Hertle J (2006) An evaluation of the sustainability of a rural water rehabilitation project in Zimbabwe. Phys Chem Earth Parts A/B/C 31:699–706CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jiménez A, Pérez-Foguet A (2011) Water point mapping for the analysis of rural water supply plans: case study from Tanzania. J Water Resour Plan Manag 137:439–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kamruzzaman AKM, Said I, Osman O (2013) Overview on management patterns in community, private and hybrid management in rural water supply. J Sustain Dev 6:26–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Katz T, Sara J (1998) Making rural water supply sustainable. Recommendations from a global study. Washington DC, UNDP-World Bank. Accessed 14 April 2014
  20. Kayser G, Moriarty P, Fonseca C, Bartram J (2013) Domestic water service delivery indicators and frameworks for monitoring, evaluation, policy and planning: a review. Int J Environ Res Public Health 10:4812–4835PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Koestler L, Koestler A, Koestler M, Koestler V (2010) Improving sustainability using incentives for operation and maintenance: the concept of water-person-years. Waterlines 29(2):147–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lockwood H (2013) Sustainability index of WASH interventions: global findings and lessons learned. Accessed 12 April 2014
  23. Lockwood H, Gouais A (2011) Service delivery indicators and monitoring to improve sustainability of rural water supplies. Building blocks for sustainability. Accessed 13 April 2014
  24. Marks S, Komives K, Davis J (2012) Community participation and handpump sustainability in rural Ghana. UNC water and health conference, Chapel Hill. Accessed 14 April 2014
  25. Montgomery MA, Bartram J, Elimelech M (2009) Increasing functional sustainability of water and sanitation supplies in rural Sub-Saharan Africa. Environ Eng Sci 2:1017–1023CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Moriarty P, Batchelor C, Fonseca C, Klutse A, Naafs A, Nyarko A, Pezon K, Potter A, Reddy R, Snehalatha R (2011) Ladders for assessing and costing water service delivery. I. I. W. a. S. Centre., IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. Accessed 15 April 2014
  27. Mukherjee N, van Wijk C (eds) (2003) Sustainability planning and monitoring in community water supply and sanitation. Water and Sanitation Program, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  28. Pankhurst H (2013) Research exploring community-managed water and services. Monitoring sustainable WASH service delivery symposium, Addis Ababa, IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. Accessed 20 April 2014
  29. Rojas F, Chatterley C (2011) Water and sanitation accountability forum: organizational evaluation of COCEPRADIL. Accessed 14 April 2014
  30. Sun Y, Asante F, Birner R (2010) Opportunities and challenges of community-based rural drinking water supplies: an analysis of water and sanitation committees in Ghana, International Food Policy Research Institute. Accessed 15 April 2014
  31. (2012) Why sustainable WASH?. Accessed 20 April 2014
  32. (2013) Measuring sustainability. WASH sustainability webinar series. Accessed 15 April 2014
  33. Sutton S (2004) Preliminary desk study of potential for self supply in Sub-Saharan Africa. Accessed 14 April 2014
  34. van Schuur WH (2003) Mokken scale analysis: between the Guttman scale and parametric item response theory. Polit Anal 11:139–163Google Scholar
  35. WaterAid (2010) Sustainability of rural water supply in Timor Leste: how big is the challenge and how are we going to tackle it? Accessed 20 April 2014
  36. WaterAid (2011) Sustainability framework. Accessed 15 April 2014
  37. Whittington D, Davis J, Prokopy L, Komives K, Thorsten R, Luckacs H, Bakalian A, Wakeman W (2009) How well is the demand-driven, community management model for rural water supply systems doing? Evidence from Bolivia, Peru, and Ghana. Water Policy 11:696–718CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. WHO (2012) UN water global annual assessment of sanitation and drinking-water (GLASS) 2012 report: the challenge of extending and sustaining services. Geneva, WHO. Accessed 14 April 2014
  39. WHO and UNICEF (2014) Progress on sanitation and drinking water: 2014 update. Geneva, WHO and UNICEF. Accessed 15 May 2014

Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kelly T. Alexander
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yihenew Tesfaye
    • 2
  • Robert Dreibelbis
    • 3
  • Bekele Abaire
    • 4
  • Matthew C. Freeman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental HealthEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Civil Engineering and Environmental Science and Department of AnthropologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  4. 4.Catholic Relief ServicesAddis AbabaEthiopia

Personalised recommendations