For over two billion people living in absolute poverty, water is everything. Access to safe and sustainable water increases peoples’ resilience and improves their health and livelihoods by supporting their basic needs — from drinking, hygiene, and sanitation to food production and income generation. Unfortunately, the way in which policymakers and water sector architects design and deliver water services to poor communities is often disconnected from the way these communities actually use water.
The current approach to water service delivery usually focuses on providing water for a single use — typically drinking or irrigation. Not surprisingly, once the water is available people begin using it for all their needs. This means that drinking water systems are used for watering livestock, producing food and supporting small water-dependent enterprises such as brickmaking or beer brewing. Likewise, irrigation water is used for drinking, bathing and other unplanned uses such as watering livestock and home gardens. The use of single-use systems for unintended purposes is a widespread phenomenon that often leads to inadvertent yet serious consequences including the spread of disease, overuse of resources, user conflict, and system breakdown. Ultimately, this gap between planned services and actual needs undermines the intended goal of water service provision — improved health and livelihoods — and leads to sustainability problems for water services and resources.
Integrated Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS) support transformative change by providing water services that meet peoples’ multiple domestic and productive water needs. MUS use communities’ self-identified needs as a starting point to plan, finance, and manage integrated water services. In addition, MUS take into account all potential water sources (rain, ground and surface water) to design financially and environmentally sustainable water services that meet actual consumer needs and preferences.
In the past 15 years, a growing body of evidence indicates that planning and managing water services for multiple uses can enhance health, improve food security, increase incomes, and reduce workloads for women and children (Loevinsohn et. al., 2014; Evans, et. al., 2013; Hall, et. al 2012; Renwick, et al., 2007; van Hoeve and van Koppen, 2005; van Hoeve, 2004; Waughray, Lovell, and Mazhangara,1998; VanDer Hoek, Feenstra, and Konradsen, 2002; Molle and Renwick, 2004). Results from on-the-ground programs in Burkina Faso, Nepal, Niger, Tanzania and other locations suggests that MUS provide the following significant advantages over single-use services:
- More income and benefits (improved health, nutrition, time savings, food security and social empowerment) for a wider range of people;
- Decreased vulnerability and increased resiliency for households through diversified livelihood strategies and increased food security;
- Enhanced reduction of poverty using methods that address the multiple dimensions of poverty simultaneously such as poor health, inadequate resources and lack of skills; and
- Increased sustainability of water services through productive water use that generates enough income to cover on-going operation, maintenance and replacement costs.
Interest in MUS has accelerated as more implementers, governments, and donors design, invest in, and implement integrated development programs. Correspondingly, the demand for a well-defined, evidence-based implementation methodology has grown. Winrock International has addressed this methodological gap by developing SolutionMUS, an open initiative to scale-up multiple-use water services (MUS). SolutionMUS provides a clear conceptual framework, step-by-step implementation guidance and a range of illustrative examples from different contexts. SolutionMUS draws on internationally recognized best practices and builds on and complements the efforts of other early MUS innovators. The approach extends beyond integrated water services by using targeted, cost-effective programs to amplify benefits in health, nutrition, food security, income generation, livelihoods diversification, and environmental sustainability. Since 2005, Winrock has worked with local and international organizations to develop, test and refine the SolutionMUS approach in partnership with local governments, local and international non-governmental organizations, and the local private sector. Our efforts in seven countries have improved the health and livelihoods of 500,000 people.
SolutionMUS is flexible. It does not need to be a stand-alone approach, but can add value to ongoing efforts to provide water services to people living in poverty. Major features of the approach include:
- A clear, consistent conceptual framework, technical standards, and step-by-step process;
- Impact-boosting programs that enhance people’s health and livelihoods, and contribute to environmental sustainability;
- Rigorous field testing and evaluation;
- An active learning and sharing platform to encourage continuous improvement; and
- A growing package of technical support and training products for implementers, funders, policymakers, and researchers.
Want to learn more?
Join us on Thursday, November 13 at 11:30 ET when Rockefeller Foundation, along with Winrock International, will host a funder webinar on integrated water services. The webinar will explain how you can:
- Achieve a higher return on every dollar spent on water services;
- Ensure the sustainability of your investments; and
- Tackle the multi-dimensional aspects of poverty, improve health and nutrition, increase food security, diversify livelihoods, and protect the environment.
Please RSVP here to participate in the webinar or contact Ryan Leeds (RLeeds@rockfound.org) for additional information.