Emory University study confirms sustainability of WaterPartners International projects

Jan. 8, 2007
WaterPartners International recently had its efforts validated by Emory University's Center for Global Safe Water. An Emory study details how WPI successfully created a sustainable source of safe water for 39 communities in Honduras through a unique combination of organizational structures, innovative financing, and in-country partnerships. The model enables developing countries, with the help of local partnerships and proper training, to develop, manage, and maintain their own water supply...

"More than 200 million hours are spent each day by women and female children collecting water from distant, often polluted sources" -- World Health Organization

KANSAS CITY, MO, Jan. 8, 2007 -- A newly released study has shown that a unique combination of organizational structures, innovative financing and in-country partnerships can help effectively address the global water crisis by creating sustainable sources of clean water. Emory University's Center for Global Safe Water studied a random sampling of 10 out of 39 water projects in Honduras implemented by WaterPartners International, a Kansas City-based nonprofit that provides clean drinking water to communities in developing countries. Of the 10 Honduras WaterPartners project sites surveyed in July 2006, 100% were still operational, even though some had been in existence up to ten years, and all for at least four years. Satisfaction with the system was also extremely high, with 98% of respondents more than satisfied.

"We are extremely gratified by the results of the study as it demonstrates that there is a proven way to address the crisis," says Gary White, executive director and co-founder of WaterPartners. "WaterPartners has always been characterized by the sustainability of its projects. In fact, one of the reasons we created WaterPartners was because half of the water projects being built around the world were failing. This study validates that our methods promote long-term sustainability."

With WaterPartners' model, there are organizational and financial structures in place for communities to independently operate and maintain water systems. Communities have an active water committee governing the operation of the water system, and users paying a water bill to cover the costs of operating and maintaining the water system.

Honduras Sustainability Study Findings Snapshot
Even though there are over 1 billion people living without access to clean water, historically, few -- if any -- nongovernmental organizations have conducted systematic studies of the sustainability of their water supply projects. This study represents a significant step towards quantifying success and identifying opportunities for improvement.
• All of the water systems visited were found to be functioning with active water committees.
• Nearly all of the communities had independently conducted some sort of repair of the water system and most reported continued vigilance in tank cleaning and routine maintenance checks.
• Committee members reported having received technical training at the start of the program and all felt that they were sufficiently prepared to conduct routine maintenance of the system.
• Nearly all of the communities surveyed had increased the number of water points from the beginning of the project and all were still collecting the water tariff.

One of the keys to sustainability is early and continuous community involvement. "At WaterPartners, we believe that people in developing countries know best how to solve their own problems," says Gary White. "When community members are invested and involved in their own water project, they will ensure that the project is sustainable and successful in the long haul."

WaterPartners has implemented 43 projects in Honduras in collaboration with its local partner organizations since 1990. In July, 2006, Matthew Freeman of Emory's Center for Global Safe Water led the team that evaluated WaterPartners' rural water supply program in Honduras by randomly selecting 10 water projects from the 39 projects that had been in operation at least four years.

The group was also asked to identify potential risk factors that might affect long-term viability. According to Emory, ongoing ties between communities and WaterPartners' local partner organization in Honduras, COCEPRADIL, are critical. The closer the ties remained over the years, the better organized the water committees tended to be. "That certainly strengthens our faith in our service model, and at the same time, underscores the need to maintain those relationships between the community and partner organization over time," explains John Fitzpatrick, WaterPartners' director of international programs Michaela Meckel, international programs associate, accompanied the Emory team. "It was clear that the communities had been well prepared to take care of their own water systems," said Meckel. "They organized themselves to make needed repairs and practiced regular system maintenance. Some even worked to reforest the land to further protect the watersheds that feed the systems for future generations. The objectives for WaterPartners projects are being accomplished -- even after all these years."

WaterPartners Works: Quotes from Honduras Community
Prior to WaterPartners' intervention, the women of San Antonio Valle spent up to four hours each day fetching water. Globally, more than 200 million hours are spent each day by women and female children to collect water from distant, often-polluted sources.
• "The women feel happy about having water in the house. I can't explain all the good it has done." -- Dolores Martinez, community member
• "There are more opportunities now. There was no time to get things done before. The women were always tired going to wash clothes. Now I can wash whenever. I used to wash my hands three times a day in the same water. Now, I can wash my hands in clean water. We have seen big changes in the communities. We have gained so much." -- Jose Carmen Diaz, community member.

WaterPartners International (www.water.org) is a U.S.-based non-profit that provides safe drinking water and sanitation to people in developing countries. Since its inception in 1990, WaterPartners has helped transform the lives of more than 165,000 people in eight countries. By forging partnerships with carefully-screened partner organizations, WaterPartners empowers local communities to develop and sustain solutions to their own water needs.


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