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Published on: 05/01/2012

The battle of ideas to explain the essential costs of providing water and sanitation services is being won, says Catarina Fonsenca, director of the WASHCost project.  Now the task is to work with Government agencies and international organisations to ensure that the life-cycle costs approach is put to use to plan and budget for services that reach the poorest people in developing countries, and that they are sustained.

Fonseca believes that all programmes that seriously address the need for sustainable services are adopting the life-cycle costs approach, which identifies essential costs needed to keep services running after infrastructure has been built. “I think that WASHCost or the life-cycle costs approach is already one of the tracks of the service delivery approach,” she said.

Catarina Fonseca was speaking at the project’s annual planning meeting in Kampala, as it prepared for its final full year of work to research and promote life-cycle costing. She said that putting this knowledge into use remains the biggest challenge.

“I think we have already achieved quite a lot of what we set ourselves to achieve four years ago. We have delivered disaggregated life cycle costs; we have started the process of change within countries to start to use them for planning and budgeting.” She says that project has provided the tools for other organisations at national and international level to start using the approach to budget and plan services that take into account sustainability and the needs of the poorest.

However, there is still work to be done on the link between costs and service levels for the poorest communities. In particular WASHCost is working to identify the “ideal costs” of what is needed within a district in terms of people and other resources to provide support to communities and to maintain and sustain services.

Central to the WASHCost project is the need to engage with governments at national and local level. “You want your work to have a future in order that these five years have not just led to a pile of reports on unit costs. It is a challenge for all the teams to ensure that life cycle costs approach continue to be used and discussed. The long term impact, given our big leap of faith that having better data leads to more informed decision making, would be more cost effective allocations for water and sanitation.”


Peter McIntyre

6-January 2012.



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