Number of People in Rural Areas that use an unimproved drinking water supply

Each territory is resized according to the total number of rural populations using an unimproved drinking water supply. Map prepared by Sasi Research Group (University of Sheffield) based on WHO/UNICEF 2008 Joint Monitoring Programme Data.

Download Strategy Document 2015-2017

Rural Water Supply Network Themes and Topics

Rural Water Supply Network Themes and Topics


Thematic Objectives




Universal access means access for everyone, leaving no-one out. This provides the political endorsement for RWSN to redouble its efforts regarding Equality, Non-discrimination and Inclusion and strive towards the fulfilment of the human right to water. RWSN’sEquality, Non-discrimination and Inclusion theme encapsulatesthe vision of the network and shines the spotlight on the hard to reach. It sets out to ensure that the targeting of service provision at all levels is inclusive of the needs and rights of all, with special attention to those who are frequently excluded.

RWSN as a whole shares practical solutions and recommends practices to ensure access to safe and affordable.
Sustainable groundwater development for rural water supplies

Groundwater is playing an ever important role for drinking water supplies, particularly in rural areas. In many countries, there has been a large-scale switch from using unprotected surface water to protected groundwater. However, understanding of groundwater resource is limited, especially in developing counties. The days when pumps could be installed without considering the resource are over. Groundwater scarcity and pollution are major concerns in some parts of the world. There is also need for professionalism and vigilance to ensure that the infrastructure that taps groundwater is built to last, so that borehole and hand dug well provision is cost-effective. Without proper supervision, and the installation of quality pumps, universal access will never be met. RWSN’s Sustainable Groundwater Developmenttheme strives to ensure that groundwater resources are properly considered and sustainably used for developing drinking water supply sources.

Sustainable SeRVICEs

The word sustainability has been flaunted in the development arena for over 60 years but there are still flaws with respect to policies as well as implementation. With the change in a one-size-fits-all “community management” approach to a plethora of ways to maintain services, there is need for scrutiny, guidance and learning as well as a recognition that government has a central role and responsibility. Whatever the water resource, technology used or means of investment, rural water supply services can only be sustained if they are properly managed. RWSN’s Sustainable Services theme sets out to ensure that rural water supply services are adequately financed, that they meet country norms and standards and are managed by defined service providers with adequate support.


It is unlikely that there will ever be collection of taxes or sufficient donations, or redistribution of wealth to enable everyone to benefit from highly subsidised water supply infrastructure. Public services do not always meet user expectations. RWSN’s Accelerating Self-supply theme provides a way to improve the water sources that people already have, using investments by households themselves. The Self-supply approach extends beyond drinking water; it is about employment creation, stimulating local economies and finding ways to support self-reliance. The Accelerating Self-supply theme aims to establish Self-supply as a recognised option for rural water supplies by government agencies, development and implementing partners and water users themselves.

Effective monitoring of rural water supply services is important to enable progress to be measured and to provide evidence for decision-making. The ICT revolution, coupled with concerns about equity and the sustainability of services has triggered a boom in water point mapping activities and inventories for rural water supplies over the last five years. RWSN’s Mapping and Monitoring topic cuts across all of the other themes, and sets out to improve the use of robust data for decision-making, particularly by local and national governments.

RWSN works by:

  • Supporting and facilitating innovation and research,
  • Turning evidence from the field into accessible documentation and other knowledge products,
  • Sharing information and knowledge widely within and beyond the domain of those working to improve rural water services,
  • Developing professional and technical capacities, especially through networking,
  • Influencing practices and policies of Governments, donors, private sector organisations and non-Governmental organisations.