Self-supply refers to an approach of incremental improvements to water supplies that are mainly financed by the users themselves (see this Wikipedia entry on Self-supply for more information). Under this approach neither governments nor NGOs provide direct subsidies for capital investment or for operation and maintenance. The products and services for the improvements are usually provided on a commercial basis by local private enterprises. Under a Self-supply approach the users are in charge for choosing the technology they want, the service level they want and the provider of these products and services.

Self Supply, Zambia (RWSN)

Private investment in water supplies (as well as in sanitation) is already substantial and will grow. A range of technologies are suitable for Self-supply in rural areas. They include hand dug wells and boreholes fitted with pumps, rain water harvesting systems, household water treatment and even piped systems, among others. Self-supply sources have contributed to reaching the MDGs in many countries and will also contribute to the post-MDG targets for water supply. It is essential that efforts by water users themselves to improve their water supplies are better understood and acknowledged, so that this approach can be strengthened and applied where most appropriate.

Key Publications

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Related Resources

Proceedings of the 7th RWSN Forum

29 Nov - 2 Dec 2016, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

The 2016 Rural Water Supply Network Forum in Abidjan was the first global gathering to consider the practical challenge of how everyone worldwide can get access to safe, affordable water by 2030. It was also the first RWSN Forum to take place in a francophone country, in the 25 years since the creation of the network.
The Forum gathered 467 rural water sector practitioners from over 300 organisations from 64 countries in Africa, Asia, Americas, and Europe, in a bilingual (English/French) four day event. It was opened by the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, Mr Daniel Kaplan Duncan. We were joined by HE State Minster James Dengchol Tot, Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity of Ethiopia, as well as a delegation from AMCOW.

This Forum proceedings compiles all peer-reviewed materials. Separate downloads and links to the films can be found at: • read more »

Rural Water Supply Network - Annual Report 2016

Enabling practitioners, professionals and ultimately water users to make informed decisions on how to improve and maintain access to safe water in rural areas.

The focus for the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) in 2016 was preparing for, and managing the 7th RWSN Forum in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 29th November to 2nd December with the title “Water for Everyone”. This was the first RWSN Forum to take place in a francophone country in the 25 years since the creation of the network.

Throughout 2016 specific in-country activities included a short-course on Procurement, Contract Management and Costing and Pricing in Zambia and a participative analysis of Manual Drilling in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Workshops organized by the World Bank in Bangkok and Lima on sustainable services drew together government agencies in both regions. Key lessons from both events fed into the RWSN Forum under the RWSN Theme “Sustainable Services”.

RWSN continued to work on strengthening the links between research and practice on groundwater by disseminating the outputs from UPGro (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor) research to the RWSN membership as well as fostering direct linkages between groundwater experts and water supply professionals. • read more »

Rainwater Harvesting in Thailand: Learning from the World Champions

RWSN Field Note 2016-1

This field note provides an overview and analysis of the historic developments of promoting Domestic Rainwater Harvesting (DRWH) in Thailand between 1980 and 2015. Based on literature reviews and interviews with stakeholders a series of factors were identified which made the promotion of DRWH in Thailand an exceptionally successful example of diffusion of innovations. Among the key factors identified were policies, market structure, pre-existing habits, affordability, supply chain and climate. No single factor was decisive but several of them occurring simultaneously made it possible for an enabling environment to form and make the initiative flourish even after government funding ran out (most of the Thai Jars, which are most commonly used for rainwater storage, were actually delivered through the private sector and paid by the consumers).
In spite of its large-scale success, the Thai Jar Experience is not a blueprint for replication elsewhere but points out to the importance of cultural and economic aspects, as well as to an enabling environment in general. • read more »

Review of Upgraded Family Well Programme in Makoni & Buhera districts, Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe

Country Report Zimbabwe

This report aims to present the impact of a programme for the upgrading of traditional wells in rural Zimbabwe. The study focuses on two districts in Manicaland province, Makoni and Buhera, where self-financed improvements through the UFW programme were supported some 20 years ago. The study included extensive dry-season surveys of water-points, interviews with households and with stakeholders at all levels that were conducted between September and October 2015. Water quality samples were taken both from sources (from 50 community water points, from 50 traditional wells and from 100 upgraded family wells) and at point-of-use (200 samples). • read more »

Review of Self-financed Water Supply in Milenge district, Zambia

Country Report Zambia

According to the UN Human rights to water and sanitation note (2015) there are three major management models for water supply, one of which is the “individual on-site solution” known as Self-supply. Self-supply is defined as incremental investments to improve access to water and quality of water financed by household investment. This report aims to present ‘adequate strong evidence to support or negate Self-supply acceleration as a service delivery model’ in Zambia. It is based on a review study of piloting of self-financed traditional well improvement in Milenge District, Luapula Province, one of the two poorest districts in the poorest province in Zambia. During the piloting also specific support services were provided such as facilitation of a loan scheme and training of local masons to iprove Self-supply so that there was supported Self-supply as service delivery model.

The study included extensive dry season surveys of waterpoints (200), households (150) and interviews with stakeholders at all levels, undertaken between June and August 2015. • read more »

Self-Supply as a means of bringing water to the people of Zimbabwe and its relation to the hand pump program.

The concept of “self-supply” as a means of providing water to families (who become responsible for their own supply) is becoming increasingly common in Zimbabwe. However there is nothing new in it. For well over half a century, thousands of families living in the rural areas of Zimbabwe had dug their own wells as a means of providing water for domestic and agricultural use. And many families have built tanks to catch rainwater. Rain water harvesting is another method which could fall under the concept of self-supply. A communal hand pump water supply program to support communities living in the rural areas had also begun in the 1930’s when the Bush Pump, then known as the Murgatroyd pump, after its inventor, first began to provide water in Matabeleland. The hand pump supply, supported by the governments Department of Water, subsequently spread throughout the country. In later years the on site management of the Hand Pump programme was and is managed by the District Development Fund. For the cities and towns, water is supplied through municipal piped water supplies, largely supplied from dams and reservoirs. However many people living in the urban areas also used their own wells and boreholes excavated on their own property. And self-supply in the cities is now becoming common. • read more »

Human rights to water and Self-Supply – Potential and challenges

RWSN webinar on 24th November 2015 – Key messages and generic findings

Summary of generic messages:
1. The Human Right to water does not favour or exclude any management model for provision of safe water to all. The important objective is that eventually all people have universal access, that core principles are adhered to and that there is no difference in quality and access no matter which supply approach is used.
2. Self-supply is aligned and compatible with the concept of progressive realisation of the Human Right to Water.
3. Government’s role in Self-supply is to identify where and when Self-supply is an appropriate option to provide access to safe water. Additionally government should provide technical support, monitoring, financial support (e.g. subsidies), establish an enabling environment and recognize Self-supply as one viable option to achieving the Human Right to Water.
4. In Self-supply, like in other approaches, challenges might occur around affordability, water quality, monitoring, and long term sustainability. The Government must support people moving up the water ladder but also take preventive measures to avoid negative impacts from Self-supply.
5. To further scale up Self-supply subsidies might be an adequate means to allow poor people to move up the water ladder in incremental steps. Subsidies need to be designed and provided in a smart way, without distortion of the local economy. If subsidies are provided there is need to find sustainable funding sources.
6. As Self-supply will not be an option in all regions, and because the cost of using the community managed approach alone will be far too high, a blended approach using boreholes, piped schemes and Self-supply sources (using different technologies) might be the best way to go for achieving universal access in rural areas. • read more »

Private Sector Provision of Rural Water Services

A desk study for Water for People

Community-based management remains the dominant approach to rural water supplies in Africa, Asia and Latin
America, though private sector provision is growing in importance

Self-supply offers a low-cost way to expand privately-managed supplies at a household level, though, with the notable exception of Zimbabwe, few formal initiatives have been scaled up beyond a pilot stage

Despite being the most common mode of rural water supply, handpumps are rarely managed by the private sector

Privately operated decentralised water treatment kiosks have emerged over the last decade (chiefly in India), though at this early stage have captured only a small share of the rural water market

Operation of piped schemes serving small towns is the most common modality of private sector involvement in rural water supplies

Full recovery of capital costs through user fees appears to be rare, particularly in rural Africa, thus widespread capital investment by private enterprises and entrepreneurs remains unlikely without external subsidies • read more »

Harvesting the Rain

A construcction Manual for Cement Rainwater Jars and Tanks

The comprehensive manual was developed and published by UNICEF and gives a good overview of the construction process of the "Thai Jars", the large mortar jars which are very common in rural areas of Thailand and other parts of the world.

DISCLAIMER: This is a non-RWSN publication and endorsement by RWSN or any of its member organisations should not be inferred. • read more »

Domestic Rainwater Harvesting: Kenya

Field Study Report 2009

This report presents the key findings of a study relating to the domestic rainwater harvesting (DRWH) sub-sector. The field survey was conducted from March 17-30, 2009. Data was collected through visits and meetings supported by semi-structured interviews as well as observations. The principle purpose of the study was to assess the potential of rainwater harvesting (RWH) for domestic use in Kenya, and equally to collect background information necessary for a generic framework to evaluate potential commercialization of the EnterpriseWorks/Vita flexible membrane water tank concept. Essentially, the study sought to assess preferred product attributes and technical parameters needed to motivate the demand-side for this product.

DISCLAIMER: This is a non-RWSN publication and endorsement by RWSN or any of its member organisations should not be inferred. • read more »