Technology for Water and Health in Rural Setting

Saturday, February 16, 2013
Room 313 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jamie Bartram , University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
Rural-urban disparities in drinking-water are pervasive world-wide, with large numbers of rural under-served in both developed and developing nations.  Analysis of trends in these disparities suggests they will persist and potentially increase.  Underlying drivers include social and political marginalization, poverty and individual behaviors.  Lack of affordable, market-based solutions and ‘appropriate’ technologies are frequently cited as additional factors.  Fundamentally rural water systems are characterized by some amount of ‘self-management’ and limited evidence suggests that external support to technical and financial management is beneficial.  The persistent and pervasive deficiencies in rural water suggest that substantive improvement will depend on multiple factors that will include: economically-viable technical management, linkages to regional and/or national monitoring and oversight; and improved understanding of behavioral drivers.  We explore examples of each of these.  There are few proven models for establishment of technical assistance and, in developing countries especially, community management is frequently assumed by external supporters to be sufficient.  The circuit rider approach has proven effective in both developed and developing countries in professionalizing and systematizing such management.  Rural water systems are insufficiently integrated into regional or national monitoring systems in most countries such that associated problems are under-recognized.  Cost of monitoring is a frequently-cited cause of insufficient monitoring.  We review the potential value of sampling-based approaches and emerging tools to overcome this obstacle.  These include both technical tools – such as low-cost monitoring appropriate for community-level use; and communication tools that enable linkage to central automated support systems.  Combined these lead to substantive system-level savings that make integrated monitoring achievable.  Household water treatment and safe storage (HWTS) has attracted much recent attention. Evidence from studies on sustained adoption and application suggest that greater attention is required on the behaviors of users in addition to system-wide responses.