OR/16/044 Findings

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Wilson P, Bonsor H C, MacDonald A M, Whaley L, Carter R C, Casey V. 2016. UPGRO Hidden Crisis Research consortium: initial project approach for assessing rural water supply functionality and levels of performance. British Geological Survey (BGS) Open Report, OR/16/044.
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Literature review[edit]

The main findings from the literature review were:

  • There is no single accepted definition of functionality or what constitutes a functioning HPB.
  • It is generally invalid to systematically compare the results of different surveys or studies since they use different definitions of functionality.
  • Over a third of the studies reviewed did not explicitly define functionality. A simple binary approach is the most common approach used in both national surveys and local studies: functioning or non‐functioning.
  • There is increasing demand in recent work for a common definition of functionality.
  • The limitations of a binary approach to defining functionality has led some to define multiple categories such as partially functioning but this in itself has made comparison of surveys more difficult.
  • Functionality is most commonly determined using qualitative assessment methods and direct quantitative measurements of function are rare.
  • Most of the national and agency led functionality studies consider different water source types such as tap stands, shallow wells and rainwater harvesting, as well as HPB’s. Each of these different source types presents a unique set of issues that influence functionality but these nuances are often lost by classifying them all as water points. [note 1]

The review found that nearly all of the studies reviewed could be placed in to 1 of 6 different categories of how functionality is defined and measured. Classifying the studies in this way enabled the different methods to be more easily considered, and for the attractive and unattractive qualities of each to be better appreciated. Table 1 below shows a summary of the 6 different classes, and the main studies which used such a method.

Definition Class Summary Key Studies
1 (n = 31) Not defined — By default, working or not working. van der Linde (2015)[1],
World Vision (2014)[2],
Deneke and Hawassa (2008)[3],
Miguel and Gugerty (2005)[4],
Gill (2014)[5],
Chowns (2014)[6]
2 (n=38) Defined — Working at the time of visit or 'in use', 'not in use'. MWE (2010)[7],
UNICEF (2014)[8],
Samani et al. (2012)[9],
Fisher et al. (2015)[10]
3 (n =17) Multi Categories — Functional, not functional, needs repairs, semi‐functional, minimally functional, functioning through difficulties, broken, missing parts, seasonal. MoEWR (2012)[11],
SNV (2014)[12],
Government of Tanzania Ministry of Water (2015)[13],
Truelove (2013)[14],
Stawicki (2012)[15]
4 (n=4) Tiered definition — several different levels of assessment and indicators are used to assess functionality. As a minimum functionality is assessed using a binary approach of ‘working/not working’, but can be examined in greater detail using several levels of assessment. Carter and Ross (2016)[16],
Leclert (2012)[17],
Tincani et al. (2015)[18],
Brocklehurst (2015)[19].
5 (n =15) Sustainability Assessment — A broader assessment which includes several factors indicating the reliability of the water supply. Functionality is one of several factors considered to assess sustainability. Adank et al. (2013)[20],
SNV (2013)[21],
Lockwood and Smits (2011)[22],
Hoko et al. (2009)[23],
Water for People (2011)[24],
Calow et. al (2013)[25],
Moriarty et al (2013)[26],
Harvey and Reed (2004)[27],
Moriarty (2011)[28],
WaterAid (2009)[29]
6 (n = 6) Design yield — If the borehole produced at least the design yield at the time of visit Baumann (2008)[30],
Harvey (2004)[31].

Class 1 — Not defined — By default, working or not working (28% of studies reviewed)[edit]

The functionality of water points is reported but what classifies a functioning water point is not explicitly defined. This presumes that what is meant by a functioning water point is inherently known and does not require defining. By default, this means that a point is assessed as either working or not working. This is a subjective assessment and open to inconsistency meaning results between different water points are incomparable.

Class 2 — Defined — Working at the time of visit or ‘in use’, ‘not in use’ (34% studies reviewed)[edit]

This is similar to class 1 except that rather than being a presumed definition, it is expressly stated that a functioning water point is one that is either working, or is in use, at the time of visit. An assessment of whether a water point is working is usually made by a survey or study enumerator and involves them directly attempting to acquire a supply of water from a water point. The ‘in use’ / ‘not in use’ assessment can be as little as a visual observation that there are people gathered around a water point and it must therefore be in use. Whether a point is in use or not can also be determined by a community questionnaire.

Class 3 — Multi‐categories (15% studies reviewed)[edit]

Some studies have used multiple categories of functionality to present a more nuanced definition of functionality. The simplest form defines a water point as: functional, partially functional or non‐functional. In a number of studies, a variety of different categories have been used including: ‘needs repairs’, semi‐functional, minimally functional, functioning through difficulties, broken, missing parts and seasonal.

The approach enables individual studies to present a more nuanced appreciation of the level and nature of water point functionality. With a simple binary approach, the results of a study may be 80% functional and 20% non‐functional. If a category of partial functionality is included, the results may be 40% functional, 40% partially functional and 20% non-functional. However, the value of the approach for comparing results between studies is much less due to the variability in the categories used between studies. Universal adoption of agreed categories and terminology is required to realise the benefit of the approach.

Class 4 — Tiered approach (4% studies reviewed)[edit]

A tiered approach assesses functionality across several different levels — from a simple top level assessment of ‘working/not working’ based on if the HPB is working or not, to increasingly detailed assessments later on. This enables a more refined assessment of functionality to be undertaken where possible, whilst acknowledging that such detailed assessments are not feasible in all cases.

Class 5 — Sustainability Assessment (14% studies reviewed)[edit]

This involves a broader assessment than just the functionality of a water point at a point in time, and examines the sustainability of the service that the water supply provides. As an assessment, this takes account of the temporal nature of water services and what this will likely be in the future. Many other factors (e.g. the accessibility of the water service to users, the projected demand, reliability and frequency of service) are therefore considered beyond just the quantity and quality of water produced by a water point on the date of assessment. An example of this is the current WaterAid post‐implementation water point monitoring tool — where how well a water point functions is included within an assessment of reliability. The VFM‐WASH surveys also examined both functionality and service levels in relation to different time periods — asking households and communities about hours per day, days per week and months per year of service from each water point which they used (Tincani et al. 2015)[18].

Functionality is commonly one factor defined and measured as part of sustainability assessments. How functionality is defined varies again from a simple binary ‘in use/not in use’ assessment to quantitative assessments of HPBs such as stroke and leakage tests. As a result, is often difficult to compare functionality scores between the different sustainability studies. The intricate links between the different indicators of functionality are also not always captured.

Class 6 — The HPB produces at least the design yield at the time of visit (5% studies reviewed)[edit]

Compared to the previous classes, this may seem like a simple binary definition and therefore lacks much depth. The approach, however, introduces a new component — a benchmark standard — to which functionality is measured against. In this case the ‘design yield’[note 2]

This approach has the benefit of objectivity, but requires a systematic way of both knowing and measuring the design yield of each water point. Often the actual yield that the water point is designed for is not retained by implementing agencies contracting installation of new water points, or by drillers, and it is therefore difficult or not possible to access this information. A more appropriate approach may be to assess the designed yield of a handpump against standard design criteria, or national standards for HPBs.


  1. van der Linde. (2015). Over one million surveys, collected with Akvo FLOW. [Online] Available from: http://akvo.org/blog/over‐one‐million‐surveys‐collected‐with‐akvo‐flow/. [Accessed: 7th August 2015]
  2. World Vision. (2014). The Key to Drilling Wells with Staying Power in the Developing World. [Online] Available from: http://www.prnewswire.com/news‐releases/the‐key‐to‐drilling‐wells‐with‐staying‐power‐in‐the‐developing‐world‐273594891.html [Accessed: 7th August 2015]
  3. Deneke, I and Hawassa, H A. (2008). The Sustainability of Water Supply Schemes: A case study in Mirab Abaya woreda. Ripple Working Paper 4.
  4. Miguel, E and Gugerty, M K. (2005). Ethnic Diversity, Social Sanctions, and Public Goods in Kenya. Journal of Public Economics 89 (11–12): 2325–2368.
  5. Gill, L. (2014). Evaluation of the short, medium and long term sustainability of Concern’s WASH programme in the Kagera Region of north‐west Tanzania. Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, Trinity College Dublin
  6. Chowns, E E. (2014). The Political Economy Of Community Management: A Study Of Factors Influencing Sustainability In Malawi’s Rural Water Supply Sector. A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of Doctor Of Philosophy
  7. MWE. (2010). Water and Environment Sector Performance Report. Government Report.
  8. UNICEF. (2014). Madagascar WASH Sector Sustainability Check, Final Report (draft), pp 72.
  9. Samani, Destina and Apolya P. (2013). Sustainable Water Service Delivery Project: study findings, Report.
  10. Fisher, M B, Shields, K F, Chan, T U, Christenson, E, Cronk, R D, Leker, H, Samani, D, Apoya, P, Lutz, A and Bartram, J. (2015). Understanding handpump sustainability: Determinants of rural water source functionality in the Greater Afram Plains region of Ghana. Water Resour. Res. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1002/2014WR016770
  11. MoEWR. (2012). Sierra Leone Waterpoint report. Ministry of Energy and Water Resources, Sierra Leone.
  12. SNV. (2014). Results are in: mapping the water supply in Chum Kiri. [Online] Available from: http://www.snvworld.org/en/cambodia/news/results‐are‐in‐mapping‐the‐water‐supply‐in‐chum‐kiri [Accessed: 7th August 2015]
  13. Government of Tanzania Ministry of Water (2015). Water Point Mapping System. Government Database.
  14. Truelove, J. (2013). Sustainability of Community Managed Rural Water Supply in Post-Conflict Regions of Northern Uganda. A research project report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Master of Science of Loughborough University.
  15. Stawicki, S A. (2012). Assessing Water Scheme Functionality and Governance in South Gondar, Ethiopia. Thesis presented for the degree of Masters in Development Practice, Emory University.
  16. Carter,R, Ross, I. (2016). Beyond "Functionality" of handpump‐supplied rural water services in developing countries. Waterlines, 35(1) 94–110.
  17. Leclert L. (2012). Status review of BSF’s borehole drilling component in South Sudan (2006–2012), BMB/Euroconsult, MottMacDonald report, 67 pp.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Tincani, L, Ross, I, Zaman, R, Burr, P, Mujica, A and Evans, B. (2015). Regional assessment of the operational sustainability of water and sanitation services in Sub‐Saharan Africa. Report by VFM‐ WASH.
  19. Brocklehurst, C. (2015). Development Of A Standard For Monitoring Of Functionality Background Note. SWA Global Monitoring Harmonisation Task Team.
  20. Adank M, Kumasi T C, Abbey E, Dickinson N, Dzansi, Atengdem J, Chimbar T L and Effah‐Appiah, E. (2013). The status of rural water services in Ghana: A synthesis of findings from 3 districts. (Akatsi, Sunyani West and East Gonja Districts) IRC, April 2013
  21. SNV. (2013). Functionality: The challenge to sustain rural water supply services. SNV Practice Brief, Issue 5, October 2013, SNV, The Hague, Netherlands.
  22. Lockwood H, Smits S. (2011). Supporting Rural Water Supply: Moving Towards a Service Delivery Approach Practical Action Publishing, 200 pp.
  23. Hoko Z, Demberere T and Siwadi J. (2009). An evaluation of the sustainability of a water supply project in MT Darwin District: Zimbabwe, Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa, 11; 2.
  24. Water for People. (2011). Baseline Data Rwanda. Briefing Note
  25. Calow, R C, Ludi, E, Tucker, J. (2013). Achieving Water Security. Lessons from research in water supply, sanitation and hygiene in Ethiopia. Warwickshire UK: Practical Action Publishing Ltd.
  26. Moriarty, P, Smits, S, Butterworth, J and Franceys, R. (2013). Trends in rural water supply: Towards a service delivery approach. Water Alternatives 6(3): 329–349
  27. Harvey, P and Reed, B. (2004). Rural Water Supply in Africa: Building Blocks for Handpump Sustainability. Loughborough UK: WEDC, Loughborough University, 2004.
  28. Moriarty, P, Batchelor, C, Fonseca, C, Klutse, A, Naafs, A, Nyarko, K, Pezon, C, Potter, A, Reddy, R and Snehalatha, M. (2011). Ladders for assessing and costing water service delivery. IRC WASHCost Working Paper 2.
  29. WaterAid Tanzania. (2009). Management for Sustainability: Practical lessons fro three studies on the management of rural water supply schemes. WaterAid Booklet.
  30. Baumann, E, Danert, K. (2008). Operation and Maintenanceof Rural Water Supplies in Malawi. Skat study report.
  31. Harvey, P A. (2004). Borehole Sustainability in Rural Africa: An analysis of routine field data. 30th WEDC Intrenational Conference, Vientiane, Lao, PDR, 2004.


  1. Given this, the focus of this UPGro project is specifically on HPB’s. HPB’s accessing groundwater are one of the main water supply types in use across much of Sub‐Saharan Africa, therefore this project is focusing on understanding the complex issues that influence HPB functionality in an effort to inform change that will improve the rates of poor functionality of HPB’s.
  2. The use of the term 'yield' can be ambiguous when used in relation to the water supply from a borehole. Borehole yield is a function of the transmissivity of the aquifer it accesses, the energy losses due to the borehole structure and the depth at which the pump intake is installed. A more accurate reflection of functionality is whether a HPB is continuing to supply the water quantity it was designed to, as opposed to yield.