Myths of Rural Water Supply

The 'Myths of Rural Water Supply' was prepared and published by the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) Executive Steering Committee in 2010. It drew heavily on background papers prepared by Kerstin Danert and Peter Harvey and comments from Richard Carter, as well as the knowledge and experiences from all of the Executive Steering Committee members. The process involved a workshop in September 2008 which agreed the main issues that would be covered by the paper. Barbara Evans produced the first draft of the paper and helped facilitate and document the workshop process. This was followed by an extensive review process in order to reach consensus.

The RWSN Executive Steering Committee comprised: Clarissa Brocklehurst (UNICEF), Peter Harvey (UNICEF), Kerstin Danert (Skat), Erich Baumann (Skat), Vincent Casey (WaterAid), Wambui Gichuru (WSP), Boniface Aleobua (AfDB) and Sally Sutton.

The paper is one of the most influential produced by the network because it exposes some of the frustrations at the failures and mistakes that keep being repeated by rural water supply projects.

The paper exposes the following seven myths:

  • Myth 1: The best way to utilize public funds is to heavily subsidise hardware
  • Myth 2: Building water supply systems is more important than keeping them working
  • Myth 3: Communities are always capable of managing their facilities on their own
  • Myth 4: What rural dwellers need is 20 litres per person per day of clean water
  • Myth 5: We know what we want and what we can get from the private sector
  • Myth 6: Any action which tries to improve rural water supplies is laudable
  • Myth 7: There is a quick fix for rural water supplies

Many organisations and individuals have responded positively to the recommendations and we strongly recommend that anyone working in this field download and read it - it will be the best investment of 15 minutes you make today.

Also available in [French] and [Portuguese]


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This paper was prepared by the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) Executive Steering Committee. It drew heavily on background papers prepared by Kerstin Danert and Peter Harvey and comments from Richard Carter, as well as the knowledge and experiences from all of the Executive Steering Committee members. The process involved a workshop in September 2008 which agreed the main issues that would be covered by the paper. Barbara Evans produced the first draft of the paper and helped facilitate and document the workshop process. This was followed by an extensive review process in order to reach consensus. | »