World Water Day: An exemplary experience in DRC
One million people supplied with quality drinking water at a reasonable price, strengthened governance and stronger dynamic social and economic relations in the neighbourhoods. These are the impressive results of the programme implemented in DRC since 2007. "BTC and its partners have developed a reliable model of neighbourhood networks for peri-urban areas. One million people have been impacted, which is remarkable compared to what classical projects achieve. In the near future this model can be copied to a larger scale in sub-Sahara Africa to supply water to densely-populated peri-urban areas", Olivier Stoupy, BTC water expert.
What are the keys to this success?
Sound technical design with a choice for public standpipes
The mini network is optimized to reduce exploitation and maintenance costs at all levels (production, storage, distribution). The supply to users is simple and consists, at first, only of a primary network of public standpipes. For power, autonomy is advocated to guarantee continuous service to customers. When possible, the exploitation unit is directly integrated into the neighbourhood infrastructure, for instance under a water tower which is designed for the purpose. On average, a neighbourhood network autonomously supplies a population between 10,000 and 30,000 people by means of 10 to 30 standpipes with 4 taps each.
Stronger local governance to guarantee quality service
From the onset, the project involves local people in the process of putting in place and running the networks. The users, organised in associations (ASUREP), are the only people responsible for managing existing system. To do so, each ASUREP hires a technical exploitation and maintenance team and pays the standpipe service officers who distribute the water at the public standpipes. Thus, 1,600 permanent jobs have been created in the neighbourhoods.
The members of the ASUREP are elected democratically by the inhabitants of the neighbourhoods covered. The Programme superposed the water supply coverage areas to traditional and administrative neighbourhood divisions. Moreover, the ASUREPs set up cupola bodies at the intervention province's level under the form of INTER ASUREP or ASUREP coordination. At the national level, they are about to establish a Federation to defend their interests.
Sustainability is ensured because costs are covered by the revenue from water sales
To ensure sustainability, it was fundamental that the water sales price include the whole of exploitation and maintenance costs as well as the payment in instalments of the equipment.
In most cases, following local habits, people pay for the water they take at the time they come for the water. For instance, for the Kinshasa network, current tariffs are at an average of 2.5 Congolese francs per litre. So, a person who comes for 20 litres will pay 50 francs.
Concrete results for households
In the past, a family's water chores amounted to a full-time job for a family member every day. Today, thanks to the new system a child can go to school or a mother can set up a small shop.
(© CTB/ Dieter Telemans)