Free basic water services standards as indicators to assess inequalities in sustainable access to improved water services.
Sambo, Doctor Calvin.
MetadataShow full item record
Sustainable access to improved water services is essential to sustain human life and a fundamental human right. Water is used by rural communities for activities that improve their health, wellbeing and livelihoods. As a result, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) aim to attain universal access to improved water services provided by Improved Water Sources (IWS). IWS include standpipes in dwellings, communal standpipes and protected dug wells. Aligned to the SDG, the South African government conceived and effected the Free Basic Water Services (FBWS) policy to coordinate efforts to attain universal access to improved water services. However, there have been challenges in implementation of the FBWS policy resulting in a vast proportion of the rural communities without sustainable access to improved water services. The challenges vary from issues related to institutional capacities, accountability and monitoring. A substantial part of the challenge is the lack of reliable data to inform decision-makers involved in the planning and management of improved water services in the rural communities. The challenge is worsened by the indicator used to monitor water access as it only considers the proportion of the population provided with an IWS. This indicator does not track the sustainability aspects of the level of water services provided by IWS over their useful life. The research sought to address the gaps that exists with regards to making available the information required to inform decision-makers involved in the planning and management of improved water services, and the use of indictors to measure sustainability aspects of water services provided. The aim of the research was to assess inequalities in access to improved water services using a set of indicators derived from the FBWS standards, and investigate and analyse the complex interactions of the factors that influence access to improved water services in Makhudutamaga Local Municipality (MLM), Limpopo Province, South Africa. Stratified random sampling was employed to determine representative samples of the settlements (39) and households (396) in the study area. Survey questionnaires were administrated to collect qualitative data on households’ satisfaction with FBWS policy and water services provided as well as to collect qualitative and quantitative data on the level of water services provided based on distance, quantity, reliability, flow rate, water quality, and cost. Transect walks were employed to collect supporting information to enhance an understanding of the local context. Furthermore, key informant interviews combine with complex systems approach (e.g. network) were employed to collect qualitative data and analyse the complex interactions of factors that influenced sustainable access to improved water services. The results indicated that between 69.7% - 95.0% of households were satisfied with aspects of the FBWS standards. When using the standards to assess households’ satisfaction with improved water services provided, most of the households were satisfied with distance (62.0%), quantity (61.2%), flow rate (52.7%), and water quality (54.8%), but unsatisfied with the reliability (56.3%) and cost of buying water (58.0%). An assessment of the level of water services provided indicated that aspects (e.g. reliability and cost) of the improved water services provided did not comply with the FBWS standards. The results also indicated that there were statistical differences in access to improved water services across the 4 water schemes for distance [H(3) = 61.33, p = 0.00], quality [H(3) = 72.83, p = 0.00, flow rate [H(3) = 20.12, p = 0.00], and quality [H(3) = 17.21, p = 0.00] no difference for reliability [H(3) = 1.37, p = 0.712]. The majority of households (78.5%) could not afford the cost of buying water. An investigation of the factors that influence sustainable access to improved water services found that limited budget, limited/no water supply and improper operation and maintenance (O&M) were critical factors that influenced sustainable access to improved water services. Therefore, the proposed targeted interventions included increased budget, improved institutional capacity and improved monitoring. It was concluded that there are inequalities in sustainable access to improved water services provided based on FBWS standards. The inequalities are as a result of the complex interactions of categories of factors that influence sustainable access to water services. This study provides an informational advantage in understanding why the situation is as it is on the ground to contribute to evidence-based strategic planning and management of improved water services to ensuring sustained water access in rural municipalities. It is a recommendation of this study for the proposed targeted interventions to be piloted and adopted if found to be suitable to address identified challenges in the study area. The proposed interventions include but not limited to a review of the funding model to respond to the situation on the ground-based on monitoring information, and develop and implement a reasonable participatory water rationing strategy.