Community management of rural water supplies in South Africa : Alfred Nzo district municipality case study.
South African legislation, as summarised in The Strategic Framework for Water Services (Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, 2003), makes local authorities responsible for all water services to individual consumers. As Water Services Authorities (WSAs), municipalities must appoint Water Services Providers (WSPs) to implement water services. The legislation allows a range of organisations to act as WSPs. The Strategic Framework also lays down norms and standards with regards to continuity of water supplies and water quality. The country has adopted a policy of "Free Basic Water", which requires WSAs to provide a basic level of services free of charge. Six kilolitres per household per month is the norm adopted by most municipalities. In deciding on the institutional arrangements for the provISIon of water serVIces, municipalities need to decide what functions, if any, to outsource. Most international literature that reviews experiences of the International Water Decade advocates community management of rural water supplies, pointing to failures of government run, centralised management of rural schemes. A strong reason given for choosing community management is the sense of "ownership" this gives to local communities. Traditional theories on management by government organisations use a "steering" model, in which the government sets the course for policy and administrators implement the policies decided upon. Since the 1980s, a new paradigm for analysing government has emerged, emphasising the limits to governments' power to act as it wishes. The new model is one of networks of various interdependent organisations, often with the government at the centre. Such a model can be used to depict organisational relationships in rural areas of South Africa. In the early 1990s, a number ofNGOs implemented rural water schemes using the community management approach. However, after the passing of legislation making municipalities WSAs, very few municipalities have seriously considered community management, or any formal role for local community based organisations. Efforts to assess the effectiveness of municipalities' water service delivery IS severely hampered by a lack of usable data. Since starting to take responsibility for water schemes from DWAF and other bodies in 2000, municipalities have struggled to manage service delivery effectively, largely due to a shortage of management and technical skills. Alfred Nzo District Municipality (ANDM) is one of the poorest municipalities in the country, with high levels of poverty. Approximately 50% of the rural population have adequate water services, that is 25 litres per person available within 200 metres of the household (Smith, 2006). The operation of services is paid mainly from the municipality's equitable share from national government. This report attempts to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of community management of rural water supplies. This is done by examining ANDM's community management model as a case study. The roles and responsibilities of various actors in the programme were analysed by interviewing the Support Services Agents (SSAs) engaged to co-ordinate the programme. The effectiveness of the water services were analysed using the SSAs' monthly reports, and this was compared with other available data. The experiences of other rural municipalities were also examined, focusing on their experiences with community participation. The model used by ANDM consisted of a water committee or board for each water scheme, which supervised the work of local operators and administrators. Operators carried out minor repairs, while the SSAs did monthly servicing of pumps and motors, and implemented major repairs, largely by supervising local operators and casual labourers. Committees submitted monthly reports to the SSAs, which were used as a basis for reports from the SSAs to the municipality. SSAs also reported on water quality. The figures for continuity of supply (measuring the operability of the infrastructure) varied considerably between the three SSAs. A possible reason for low figures from one SSA was that the figures also reflected water shortages in some schemes. Figures for water quality varied more than those for continuity, leading to a concern about the extent to which sampling and testing procedures were standardised. The figures were compared with figures from attitude surveys on water services recording consumers' perceptions about continuity of supply. The difference in data being measured, and concerns about the meaning of the figures from the SSAs' reports make direct comparisons impossible. However, the data indicates that for schemes served by two of the SSAs at least, a reasonably effective service was rendered. The cost to the municipality of providing water services was R4,19 per person per month, a relatively low figure compared with other municipalities. The four KwaZulu-Natal District Municipalities interviewed all reported negative experiences with community management of rural schemes that they inherited, and all four have opted for a centralised system, one using a partnership with a water board. None of the four municipalities had systematic data on continuity of service. Despite the difficulties in comparing the performance of ANDM to that of other municipalities, it is clear that the system employed by the municipality to use community management with the support of external consultants and NGOs was workable, sustainable and efficient. The participation of local community organisations assisted in some of the common problems that beset rural water schemes such as vandalism and water wastage. The report recommends that: • Municipalities with remote rural water schemes seriously consider community management as an effective and efficient delivery mechanism. • Where community management is employed, it is backed up with effective managerial and technical support. • The Alfred Nzo District Municipality reinstate the contracts with external Support Services Agents, which were the basis of effective management of and reporting on its rural water supply programme, unless equivalent internal capacity has been acquired to do the work done by the Support Services Agents. • Water Services Providers be required by water services authorities to submit regular data on service availability, continuity of supply and water quality, and Water Services Authorities in turn be required to submit similar data to DWAF. • DWAF issues guidelines on how proper separation of regulation and implementation roles be effected between WSAs and WSPs respectively when the WSP function is carried out internally.
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