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Water point failure in sub-Saharan Africa : the value of a systems thinking approach

Thousands of water points have been installed across sub-Saharan Africa over the past four decades; however, a number have been found to be dry/low-yielding, unsafe for human consumption, and in some cases marked with appearance, taste, and odour problems. Subsequently, many users have been unable or unwilling to use these water points and have had to revert to the use of unimproved water sources. A number of factors could be causing each of these problems, either directly or indirectly. Furthermore, these factors may be interdependent and these relationships may be marked by non-linearities, feedbacks, and time delays. Deciphering which factors need to be prioritized becomes a confusing and complex task. To help understand the impact of different interventions, this paper proposes the adoption of systems-based analysis for looking at water point failure and introduces some of the more common qualitative and quantitative analytical tools that could be used to reveal how these complexities might be managed more effectively. While the use of these tools within the WASH sector has been limited to date, they hold potential for helping to identify the most suitable remedies for water point failure. Examples of where such tools have been used in relation to water point failure are reviewed, and the extent to which each approach could be applied is examined from a practitioner perspective, recognizing the limitations arising from the differing data needs and time-consuming nature of each type of analysis. [author abstract]

TitleWater point failure in sub-Saharan Africa : the value of a systems thinking approach
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsLiddle, E.S., Fenner, R.
Secondary TitleWaterlines
Volume36
Issue2
Pagination140-166
Date Published04/2017
Publication LanguageEnglish
Abstract

Thousands of water points have been installed across sub-Saharan Africa over the past four decades; however, a number have been found to be dry/low-yielding, unsafe for human consumption, and in some cases marked with appearance, taste, and odour problems. Subsequently, many users have been unable or unwilling to use these water points and have had to revert to the use of unimproved water sources. A number of factors could be causing each of these problems, either directly or indirectly. Furthermore, these factors may be interdependent and these relationships may be marked by non-linearities, feedbacks, and time delays. Deciphering which factors need to be prioritized becomes a confusing and complex task. To help understand the impact of different interventions, this paper proposes the adoption of systems-based analysis for looking at water point failure and introduces some of the more common qualitative and quantitative analytical tools that could be used to reveal how these complexities might be managed more effectively. While the use of these tools within the WASH sector has been limited to date, they hold potential for helping to identify the most suitable remedies for water point failure. Examples of where such tools have been used in relation to water point failure are reviewed, and the extent to which each approach could be applied is examined from a practitioner perspective, recognizing the limitations arising from the differing data needs and time-consuming nature of each type of analysis. [author abstract]

DOI10.3362/1756-3488.16-00022
Short TitleWaterlines

Disclaimer

The copyright of the documents on this site remains with the original publishers. The documents may therefore not be redistributed commercially without the permission of the original publishers.