Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF announced that, on a global level, we have met the United Nations’ 2015 Millennium Development Goal for increasing access to safe water.  A sigh of relief, however, may be somewhat premature.  The fact remains that there are still significant levels of disparity in water access and water quality within the developing world.

To guide the development of inclusive water sector policies, Aquaya, together with the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina, has published a comparative analysis of policy approaches for improving water quality monitoring across nine countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Ecuador, Lao PDR, Malawi, Peru, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. The paper, titled A Comparative Assessment of Institutional Frameworks for Managing Drinking Water Quality, was published in the Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development. *

Morocco’s National Water Agency hires independent entrepreneurs to analyze water samples in remote areas.

Our study examined institutional roles for water quality monitoring.  WHO guidelines stipulate two complementary types of monitoring: water providers (for example municipal water utilities) should conduct their own regular operational water quality assessments, while an independent agency (usually responsible for public health) should conduct surveillance monitoring.  We created institutional framework diagrams to visualize responsibilities in each country and found that in most of the study countries, regulations do specify responsibilities for both operational and surveillance monitoring of both urban and rural drinking water supplies.  In reality, however, the actual capacity and resources available for operational and surveillance monitoring outside of major urban centers are generally insufficient.

Rural operational monitoring is likely to remain challenging in many developing countries due to the large numbers and diversity of small water providers.  However, we suggest that an increasing reliance on ‘audit-based’ surveillance  (auditing of operational monitoring data rather than independent parallel surveillance monitoring) of larger municipal water utilities in some countries offers a strategy for shifting direct surveillance resources to rural areas.  More broadly, innovations such as audit-based surveillance provide compelling examples of policy approaches for improving the cost-effectiveness of water quality management.

* The abstract from our publication is available here.  For a reprint of the full publication, please contact Zarah Rahman: Zarah@aquaya.org

Aquaya has studied and optimized water quality testing strategies in low-resource settings for over 10 years. We are happy to provide insights to help your organization develop or improve a monitoring program. Please reach out by contacting us.

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