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]

Related Resources

What’s Working, Where, and for How Long A 2016 Water Point Update to the RWSN (2009) statistics

• An average of 78% of water points are functional across the 11 countries analyzed.

• The high failure rates early after installation are troubling: almost 15% after one year and 25% of water points are non-functional by their fourth year after installation. This indicates widespread problems with poor quality water point installation, due to a range of problems that may include professionalism and skills around contracts, construction and supervision; borehole siting; lack of quality control of hardware; or lack of post-construction monitoring and problem resolution.

• Handpumps are often singled out as technology that fails, but analysis of other water point types show similar functionality levels, and that tens of thousands of handpumps are providing a service

This poster was peer-reviewed and presented at the 7th RWSN Forum in Abidjan, Cote'Ivoire 2016.

It replaces "Handpump Data 2009 Selected Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa" (2009) | »

Tearfund Key Learning Subject Area: Water and Sanitation

This short word document identifies nine specific areas for action or recommendations. These are: 1) Community participation should be incorporated into WASH projects at every stage of relief intervention; 2) Help beneficiaries to create appropriate community-based management structures for WASH facilities; 3) WASH interventions must be based on an integration of water provision and safe excreta disposal and hygiene promotion; 4) Adopt mechanisms for cost-recovery of WASH projects appropriate to the context; 5) Ensure the project links with local government through, influencing, advocating and supporting local policy development for improved access to WASH, besides ensuring that local government agencies make appropriate contributions to the project; 6) Consider environmental sustainability in WASH projects; 7) Ensure effective supply chains are in place for spare parts for pumps, generators, treatment equipment and consumables, and water testing equipment; 8) Where possible, adopt social marketing processes in WASH; 9) Adopt Water Safety Plans.
Each recommendation is supplemented by detailed reasons and benefits. As a guidance document, this brief report would be useful as a check-list for existing projects and an excellent starting point for future ones.

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

Mythes du secteur de l’alimentation en eau en milieu rural RWSN Perspective No 4

Veiller à ce que les populations habitant en milieu rural à travers le monde n’aient pas à marcher pendant des heures pour collecter une eau potable en quantité suffisante constitue un défi majeur. Ce bref article soulève les problèmes qui se posent à ceux d’entre nous qui s’emploient à améliorer l’alimentation en eau en milieu rural, qu’il s’agisse de bailleurs de fonds, de gouvernements ou d’ONG, de gestionnaires de programmes ou de praticiens. Il examine de près nos résultats limités, identifie les domaines où nos approches méritent d’être améliorées fondamentalement et propose des solutions à certains défis. | »

A vision for achieving sustainable rural water services for all RWSN Field Note 2011-9

This document sets out the Rural Water Supply Network’s broad vision for the next two decades by defining what we believe are the core principles upon which reliable, safe and equitable services can be provided. The articulation of this vision will be different in each country and be determined by local contexts and priorities. Consequently the purpose of this document is to provide national policy makers, practitioners, development partners and water consumers with an overarching framework which can help them consider their own respective roles and approaches to the provision of water supply services to rural populations. | »

6th RWSN Forum - Event Report Rural Water Supply in the 21st Century: Myths of the Past, Visions for the Future

Full details of the event available at

The 2011 6th Rural Water Supply Network Forum in Kampala set out a vision for the future. It provided the opportunity for 480 participants from 54 countries to share their experiences and chart key next steps along the path for rural water supplies. This includes actions determined at the Forum and the Kampala Rural Water Supply Commitments with ten statements. These summarise a commitment to accelerating progress in inclusive and sustainable rural water supplies wherever those services are absent or under-performing.
As well as being opened and closed by Hon. Maria Mutagamba, Minister of Water and Environment, we were kindly joined by a sizeable delegation from the Government of South Sudan and the Hon. Ato Kebede Gerba, Minister for Water and Energy for Ethiopia. | »

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