Rural water supply

Despite significant investment and important progress, access to safe potable water continues to be one of the most pressing challenges for rural communities in South Africa. Figures provided by the department of water affairs indicate that in April 2010 1.6-million people in South Africa did not have access to any formal water supply. However, because these figures are based on expenditure on water infrastructure, the actual backlog may be significantly high given that water supply in rural areas faces major challenges in terms of operation and maintenance and many villages counted as served, no longer have a functional supply.

Since Mvula’s inception in 1993 we have championed community-based models for water services provision. We have an international reputation for advancing community based management and establishing highly successful community based water services providers.

Our Implementation Model: Tried, Tested and Sustainable

Over the years we have piloted and refined an implementation approach based on a number of sound principles. This has become known as the CBO Implementation Model. This model focuses on a community management approach where a local water committee plays a key role in the implementation of a water project.   Our approach to project implementation ensures:

  • A thorough feasibility study including technical, social, institutional and financial assessments to ensure the overall viability of proposed projects
  • Participatory project planning, where all stakeholders (in particular local government and community representatives) participate in key decisions. Decision making is focused on who the legal water services provider (WSP) will be, level of service, technology choice and roles and responsibilities
  • A holistic project design that addresses all components necessary for sustainability including community needs, appropriate technology choice, health and hygiene practices, institutional capacity building, cost recovery and effective operations and maintenance.
  • A construction phase that focuses on community awareness, local capacity building, entrepreneurial skills development, and use of local labour.

An operations and maintenance (O&M) mentoring phase where Mvula ensures:


  1. The WSP has the necessary capacity to effectively fulfill its functions of O&M, billing and revenue collection, customer relations and monitoring and reporting
  2. Support mechanisms are in place
  3. Health and hygiene promotion continues within the community
  4. Development of partnerships between local government, the community and water services institutions
  5. A monitoring and evaluation phase where information is used to take any corrective action needed.

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