A framework for rural drinking water quality management, based on experiences from the voluntary sector - A learning document by Arghyam

Arghyam, Bangalore, a non-profit foundation focusing on domestic water and sanitation, has published a document highlighting a water quality management (WQM) framework for rural areas. The framework lays out a phased and process-driven approach to WQM in rural areas and is based on work done by 12 prominent non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who have been working on water quality (WQ), from across the country. Ayan Biswas of Arghyam writes about this.


The phases that have been identified for a sustainable WQM programme are: 

(1) Assessment of baseline situation

(2) Participatory planning

(3) Water quality monitoring

(4) Implementation

(5) Operation & maintenance

The activities in the framework include a mix of education and capacity-building on the software side, and monitoring and technology on the hardware side mainstreamed through existing institutions. The first three phases of the framework focus on education and capacity-building of the local community, planning finances, sourcing data and building/strengthening the village institutions. These institutions are then actively involved in the later phases of selection, design, implementation of safe water interventions and post-implementation monitoring. 

Rationale for a NGO based model

It is generally accepted that our village institutions are not mature and have limited technical capabilities to deal with an expanding range of water quality problems. NGOs can play an important role to cope with this institutional lacuna. A rich and diverse pool of human resources is available with most of the contributing NGOs, for taking up a wide range of activities under WQM. These professionals come with region-specific experiences, domain skills and a deep commitment, which are all essential ingredients for long-term sustainability.

Resource summary

During the analysis of responses, the resource numbers were normalised for a project covering 20 villages with 200 households each. Some key observations from the NGO projects related to water quality, that were studied are as follows: 

•The projects studied for the framework ranged from 3-5 years

•NGOs working within this framework have been using various quality checks at the end of each activity phase

•The project budgets varied between 0.5-1.9 crores of rupees. Cost per beneficiary ranged between Rs. 500-1000

•Expenses on the software activities ranged between 12-20% of the total budget across all projects. In contrast, spending on the hardware activities ranged between 35-50%. Remaining expenses were salary and administrative costs

•About 6-12 staff persons were involved in WQM across all projects

•Several factors influenced the resource requirements during the different phases of WQM. In particular the current state of the intervention area in terms of existing infrastructure, social capital and cohesion etc, had a significant impact on the resource requirements. 

•The projects were mostly funded by donors, the community and the state government. Community contributions varied between 5-15% of the overall budget. Some of the organisations leveraged NREGA and NRDWP water quality funds parked with the state governments for implementing the safe water interventions.

Target audience

The framework document serves three main constituencies of readers / sector players - donors, government agencies and NGOs. 

•Donors will be able to screen proposals of prospective organisations and work with them to improve the project design. 

•NGOs working on water quality issues should be able to use this framework as a planning and budgeting tool for their future work on WQM and identify the possible financial leveraging possibilities. 

•Govt. agencies will find it helpful to understand and adopt best practices in WQM from NGOs, and incorporate into their water quality interventions and water safety plans. 

This document should also help all the concerned sector players to understand the different phases of a WQM project and get a broad, directional sense of the time, human and financial resource requirements within each phase. 

Ways forward

Please click on the following attachment for a soft copy of the document.

Interested people are requested to contact Arghyam at info@arghyam.org, 080 41698941/42 for more information and for hard copies of the document. Arghyam can provide knowledge and technical support to NGOs and government agencies interested in implementing this framework.

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