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TitleOperation and maintenance costs of rural water supply schemes in South Africa : paper presented at the IRC symposium ‘ Pumps, Pipes and Promises: Costs, Finances and Accountability for Sustainable WASH Services' in The Hague, The Netherlands from 16 - 18
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsGibson, J
Pagination23 p.; 11 tab.; 11 fig.; 9 refs.
Date Published2010-11-16
Place PublishedThe Hague, The Netherlands
Keywordspumps, rural areas, rural communities, rural development, south africa, south africa alfred nzo district, south africa eastern cape, WASHCost, water supply

This paper presents the findings from an analysis of financial data collected from a nine-year support programme in the Chris Hani and Alfred Nzo District Municipalities in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The projects served a total of 67,437 rural households. The data illustrates that the costs of providing technical support to rural settlements may vary significantly from scheme to scheme. In the South African context, this has particular implications for the subsidy provided to each municipality by national government to support the
provision of basic water services. The impact of geographic location, as well as the scale / technology choice, on the actual cost is explored. It is also noted that careful consideration must be given to balancing ‘economies of scale’ with the ‘cost of complexity’ as very large, technologically advanced systems become difficult and expensive to operate. The paper identifies the actual costs associated with a comprehensive approach to operation and maintenance (O&M) that included local CBO’s carrying out appropriate tasks at scheme
level, together with skilled and competent technical and institutional support. These actual costs are compared with other methods of determining the financial resources required to support the O&M of rural water services infrastructure such as:
1. Engineering estimates (‘costed norms’)
2. Activity based costing, and
3. Equitable Share allocations of the South African National Treasury.
A significant finding of this research is that the technical support costs of rural water schemes are large in quantum, as well as in proportion to other items. The costs for technical support and travel represent 52% and 65% of the total operational cost for the two project areas respectively.  [authors abstract]

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