Mobilizing Payments for Water Service Sustainability

  • Johanna KoehlerEmail author
  • Patrick Thomson
  • Robert Hope


The current model of rural water service delivery is broken. Money flows down from donors and governments to install infrastructure but little reliable information on performance flows back. Increased use of handpump mapping exercises by survey teams may usefully identify handpumps working one day of the year but this leaves the remaining 99.7 % of any year unknown. The continuous monitoring of services is increasingly important if we are to know the real level of water services being enjoyed by rural communities, with the growing consensus on the Human Right to Water adding further impetus. For governments and donors, knowing whether investments deliver verifiable impacts over time rather than simply knowing that budgets have been spent, is transforming established thinking. Mobile networks provide an inclusive architecture to reduce the information asymmetry between investments and outcomes. Information alone is insufficient to make progress but it is necessary to track and improve accountable service delivery. Information can improve institutional performance and help define appropriate roles and responsibilities between communities, governments and donors to close the loop between well-meaning investments and quantifiable outcomes. Donors can demonstrate value-for-money, government and water service regulators can align performance with measureable outcomes, and communities can contribute to financial sustainability through user payments that are contingent upon service delivery. Using unique observational data from monitoring handpump usage in rural Kenya, we evaluate how dramatic improvements in maintenance services influence payment preferences across institutional, operational and geographic factors. Public goods theory is applied to examine new institutional forms of handpump management. Results reveal steps to enhance rural water supply sustainability by pooling maintenance and financial risks at scale supported by advances in monitoring and payment technologies.


Water pumps Hand pumps Payments Service delivery 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Smith School of Enterprise and the EnvironmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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