Governance Research on Water Systems

“Building better relationships and trust between communities, institutions, local government authorities, and private sector water service providers”

The Situation

Despite decades of work and billions of dollars in investment and aid, approximately 800 million people globally still lack a basic level of safe water access, 80% of whom live in rural communities. A major reason for this lack of access is that water installations fail at an alarming rate – an estimated 30% of water systems in Sub-Saharan Africa are not operational. Inadequate governance contributes greatly to these challenges. When users can’t rely on water service providers to keep the water flowing, when revenues can’t be collected and payments can’t be traced, when mechanisms are lacking to hold governments accountable, who is responsible for keeping the water flowing?

Growing interest in private sector water services poses new opportunities to improve services. But the impact of private operators on governance is relatively unknown at this point, and poor governance will itself hinder the ability to attract private sector engagement.

OSU faculty Amanda Robinson (second from left) and Mary Rodriguez (second from right) visit the Masindi district in Uganda with two Ugandan facilitators

The Solution

Government Research on Water Systems (GROWS) is a three-year $2 million cooperative agreement funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to improve rural water governance outcomes in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The results have the potential to impact over 100 million people living in rural communities.

The Ohio State University, led by its Global Water Institute, is conducting extensive research for this project in partnership with the Global Environment and Technology Foundation, U.S. Water Partnership and Global Partners for Development. GROWS will address governance challenges that hinder sustainable and equitable economic growth, including:
• Building better relationships and trust between communities, institutions, local government authorities, and private sector water service providers;
• Improving fiscal transparency around water services; and
• Improving the accountability of local institutions to community members and other water consumers.

The work will produce primary data, lessons learned, insight into best practices and business models, and recommendations that can be shared throughout the development community, including with USAID, other U.S. government agencies, NGOs, country line ministries, and donors.

To learn more about the GROWS project, check out the fact sheet.