How accountability brings communities clean water

2 min read
a woman drinking clean, safe water
Image: WaterAid/Remissa Mak

In Cambodia, government water quality monitoring systems are weak, meaning quality cannot be guaranteed and people are not receiving safe and reliable water. It is common place for private suppliers to provide 20L bottles of water to community members, yet the water in these bottles is not subject to rigorous water quality testing due to limited technical capacity and policy implementation.

WaterAid observed that there was a limited understanding among consumers and local authorities about the accountability of the private water operators and their responsibility to provide quality service, with a lack of systems to hold private water suppliers to account if they did not deliver. A further issue was a lack of incentive for local authorities to increase the reach of the private operators, nor for operators to serve marginalised groups in their service areas.

a broken pipe being fixed
Image: WaterAid/Vlad Sokhin

In this context, WaterAid focused on efforts to strengthen the capacity of water quality and quantity testing. We built the capacity of private water suppliers and local authorities, educating them about the importance of water quality and how to undertake water quality testing. We provided technical capacity support to local authorities in developing action plans, setting out how they would support to private suppliers to ensure water quality in the future.

To build community trust in water quality, WaterAid assisted private water suppliers to organise site visits, bringing community members and local authorities to see the production of water at their local treatment stations.

We helped local authorities conduct public forums, where community members could raise concerns or suggest improvements to the service providers and hold local authorities to account to respond to the needs of people, especially those most marginalised. (bold)

Following the forums, several private water suppliers discounted the connection fee for poorer families and for some schools, health centres and commune offices.

As a result of this work, the Cambodian Water Supply Association’s evaluation highlighted a significant improvement in user satisfaction following the intervention. (bold)

During a baseline data collection, only 33 percent of people were satisfied with the water service and quality and after WaterAid’s work, during the end-line data collection, this had increased to 67 percent. The evaluation also found improvements in the capacity of water operators to monitor water quality and similar efforts are now being used by other water operators.

Strengthened service provider accountability for improved rural water services requires strong collective action and everyone who is a part of the system must be engaged and empowered to fulfil their roles and responsibilities. WaterAid’s adaptive way of working and supporting emerging momentum enables us to respond quickly to the rapid changes in the water supply context.