water utility evaluator

SI experts frequently evaluate the implementation and results of water and sanitation programming in both rural and urban contexts. Evaluation is critical to understand how these programs are effective, sustainable, and impact lives. In celebration of World Water Day, members of current and past evaluation teams reflect on what they have learned about water from our work:



Capacity building can have an enduring influence on water utility management in Indonesia

In Indonesia, an SI team evaluated a closed USAID WASH activity to examine whether outcomes of the USAID Environmental Services Program (ESP) targeting improvements in urban utility service provision were sustained seven years later, and why. We learned most utilities evaluated did continue to improve water access to their catchment areas. ESP’s capacity-building approach had an enduring influence on water utility management, particularly through application of standard operating procedures introduced by the implementer. A government initiative to conduct annual utility performance audits that were purported to be tied to debt relief incentives helped to prompt further improvements. Through this evaluation we learned the value of working with the local government to improve coordination of water scheme support activities and to instate annual performance monitoring, with incentives for strong performance. Finally, we learned that utility improvements to water quality and service consistency are also paramount to securing a growing customer and revenue base to improve financial stability.

Farmers are faster to take advantage of new water supplies, than households in Jordan.

A midline analysis of MCC’s water and wastewater investments in Jordan, conducted using a quasi-experimental design, showed that shortly after construction households reported better pressure and fewer disruptions, but had not yet shifted consumption from expensive bottled water towards tap water. In contrast, when the investments opened a flow of treated wastewater into the Jordan valley, our study showed that farmers there were already replacing fresh water with cheaper, treated waste water.

Improving access to water for industry could increase economic growth in Lesotho

Although households are the most frequently targeted beneficiaries of water and sanitation programming, there are other ways that countries stand to benefit from an improved, high-quality water supply. In Lesotho, the textile and garment industry is a major part of the national economy, and around 80% of its employees are women. This industry needs an adequate water supply for its production processes, like stone-washing, dyeing, and bleaching, as well as for consumption and sanitation of factory staff. Prosperity for the textile and garment industry in Lesotho can improve the wellbeing of those currently employed, future employees in the event of expansion, potentially including migrants from less prosperous surrounding rural areas. While our impact evaluation will focus heavily on the effects of improved access to water on households, it will also investigate whether or not there are direct economic benefits in terms of employment and productivity in Lesotho’s industrial centers.

Geospatial data can shed light on access to water in Nigeria

Water and sanitation programs are frequently designed based on findings from representative household surveys, where households report their own access to water. SI’s Basab Dasgupta recently collaborated with water experts to investigate how geospatial data could be used to model access to water in Nigeria. The team learned that measures such as brightness of nighttime lights, natural vegetation, aridity, and land-surface temperature can be used to predict survey measures like estimated travel time to the nearest functioning water source. The spatially-detailed information can improve program targeting relative to using household surveys alone by allowing for more detailed, granular tracking of access to water and sanitation. This added value will be particularly important to vulnerable areas, like remote areas or areas threatened by security issues, where executing a household survey for a potential water and sanitation project would be costly or unfeasible.

The utility company plays a key role in managing water supply in Tanzania

MCC recently published SI’s midline report for the Tanzania Water Sector Project evaluation. SI found that although the MCC interventions increased water production in Morogoro, demand during the same time grew faster than the available supply. To ensure a level of reliable service for all customers, the utility rationed the water supply to ensure that each customer received an average of eight hours of water per day. As a result, while this increased reliability and predictability of the water supply, some customers experienced an overall increase in water supply while others experienced a reduction. Theories of change and project monitoring efforts should, in the future, take into consideration the role and decisions of the utility in effectively managing their water supply.