Safe Drinking Water

Safe Drinking Water

Safe Drinking Water for Small Communities
A Global Issue


According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program on Water Supply and Sanitation, globally an estimated 884 million people lack access to an improved water source. Out of these, 743 million live in rural areas1. Many of the remaining 2.5 billion rural dwellers are served by small water supplies that are managed by operators who lack adequate training, with significant gaps in adequate risk management practices.


The greatest risk is the potential for an outbreak of infectious disease such as acute diarrheal illness. Every year, 2.2 million deaths are attributed to diarrhea alone,


With the vast majority of deaths among children under the age of five. Some 88% of diarrhea cases are attributed to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and hygiene.


Small community water supplies are a concern faced by both developed and developing countries. One in ten Europeans, between 40 and 50 million people, receive drinking-water from small or very small systems, including private wells. Globally, and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania, small water supplies found in rural areas significantly lag behind their urban counterparts in the quality of their drinking-water.

Safe Drinking Water in Pakistan

Background Information about Pakistan:


Population: 160m

Area: 796,000km²

Infant mortality: 98/1000

Life expectancy: 63.4 years

Water supply coverage: 91%

Sanitation coverage: 59%

Below poverty line: 32.6%

Development index: 134

Adult literacy: 54%



As everybody knows water is essential for life of man, plants and animals. From the beginning of civilization humans have settled close to water sources. Unfortunately in many countries water is scarce or contaminated. Providing a better water supply can significantly improve the quality of life and is a source of, and the condition for, a socio-economic development.

Some diseases in poor or developing countries are related to insufficient or unsafe water, together with local factors as climate, density of population, local practices etc.

To control these diseases a sufficient amount of safe drinking water is important. This implies not only improve the design and planning of water supplies, but also sanitation and hygiene behaviour. This can be obtained raising the demand and introducing sanitation programs. Improvements in water services can be made by outsiders (politicians, planners, engineers) but they have to operate in partnership with the community.

Better water distribution allows avoiding the presence of stagnant water or wastewater, where insects carrying the above mentioned diseased can be present. Better water distribution can also bring no need for women or children for carrying water. This allows more free time to dedicate to better activities, as childcare, animal rising or vegetable gardening.

In developing countries communities that want to establish and run an improved water supply vary greatly. It is important not to overlook the different nature and history of small communities. There is no standard solution, but different solutions for different communities. Planning and making decisions on the pros and cons, the implications of each option and choosing the best option considering the kind of community is crucial for the success of the project.

Planning and management

During the last two decades it has been recognized that water supply improvements alone do not bring optimum health and development impact in developing countries. Other complementary activities needed are better sanitation provisions, changes in hygiene provisions and linkages with other livelihood inputs.

Community participation in water projects is certainly very important. There is need of inclusive approach avoiding marginalization of the poor. This can be gained through programs, that are series of integrated activities directed to the establishment and continue functioning and use of water supply services. The challenge of a program is social, organizational and administrative. It is important that agencies and partners work together with communities group and users and plan their activities on a mutual agreement.

To meet long-term health benefits of environmental engineering it is important to enhance the demand for better water use, sanitation and hygiene. The new systems have to be and remain better than the alternatives in terms of economic and social costs and benefits. Program teams have to seek the values of local experiences and viewpoints to understand what local people really want and can use and sustain.

The community water supply designs should be holistic, so to meet all the basics needs of people, expandable, in view of community growth with access to the community improved water supply, and upgradeable, in view of a socio-economic growth and a need of later upgrading. Standardization, even if often more cost-effective, is not always a good choice because it can imply competition between different brands, poor incentive for the involvement in the private sector and the technology may not respond to the needs and preference of the users.




Small communities often find it difficult to obtain the capital to construct improved water supplies. Usually the central or provincial government organize and finance multi-communities programs and the fund may be partly revolving, using repayments or earlier loans. The communities candidates for a loan or a grant, or a combination of both, are asked to submit a pre-proposal to the program. Communities are not homogeneous entities, they often consist in the middle classes and the poor, marginalized groups. To help and support all the groups it is important to identify all of them at the very start of the project and to ensure their equal participation. All the groups should participate to the formulation of the preliminary plans to the program level. Projects must be based on the existing water supply already available for the community.

Once a proposal has been selected and resources have been assigned, the next stage is detailed planning and design.

When each community has developed its own detailed plan, through the decision making process at a program level it is decided which plans are financed though a loan, a grant or a combination of the two. The project funds are then transmitted in instalments to the special project bank account that each community has established