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close this bookWater and Sanitation in Emergencies - Good Practice Review 1 (ODI, 1994, 120 p.)
close this folder3. The Operating Environment: General Considerations
View the document(introduction...)
View the document3.1 The political context
View the document3.2 Conflict areas
View the document3.3 Technological considerations
View the document3.4 Climatic considerations
View the document3.5 Common characteristics of displaced and resident populations
View the document3.6 Social and economic considerations
View the document3.7 Management considerations

3.7 Management considerations

Water and sanitation infrastructure installed during an emergency will always need maintenance. The requirement will be determined by how well the system has been designed and constructed, and how well it is managed. Technically complicated systems will require a high degree of maintenance.

Pumped water systems are always problematic. A regular supply of diesel or petrol must be secured. Mechanics need to be trained and workshop facilities established. Standby capability is a necessity, and reserve pumps, generators and spare parts must be budgeted for and made available.

If water is being chemically treated, stock levels need to be maintained to provide at least sufficient capacity to guarantee the provision of water until replacement orders arrive. Planned procurement and replacement of hardware must be organised. Similarly, stock levels of water fittings such as valves have to be maintained. This implies a high degree of management and a good level of stock control, and all this becomes doubly important, as donors are increasingly demanding greater accountability for the funds they make available in emergencies.

Staff employed to operate the system must be well trained not only to perform their daily tasks, but also to understand why they are doing so. This, if something goes wrong, they will be better equipped to correct it. Until this level of training has been reached, the systems will need a high level of technical supervision and staffing. All too often water systems costing considerable sums of money are installed, and the 'experts', who have usually been flown in to supervise the installation, leave the project to be run by semi-trained local staff, who, through no fault of their own, have difficulty providing the service expected. Training of staff plays a vital part in the long-term success or failure of a programme.

Water and sanitation programmes use large amounts of manual labour, whether for digging pits for latrines or trenches for pipelines, for mixing concrete for water point or washing areas, for constructing storage reservoirs, for guarding installations and stock, or for operating pumps. A labour force of this size requires a great deal of management. Accurate records have to be kept of daily attendance; tools have to be provided; work needs to be supervised to ensure quality; and people have to be paid regularly. From the outset, a clear policy must be decided. How often and at what rate will people be paid? And on a daily or piece rate? Will some of the work e.g. constructing latrines be on a contract basis? What are the daily working hours? Will refugees or residents be used? Will people be working on religious days?

Box 4

As a result of inexperience, an expatriate engineer found himself threatened by a group of labourers who had been laughing and joking with him only the previous day. Local people had been employed to construct latrines on a greenfield site to which refugees were to be transferred. After the refugees arrived be continued to use local labour. It was then suggested that refugee labour might now be used. He agreed and without any warning, when the locals arrived for work the next day, they were told there was no more work. From the outset, the labour force should have been kept informed about the amount of work they would be receiving. Difficult situations can be avoided if consideration is given to actions beforehand.

Such issues need to be clear to the programme co-ordinator and to the people who are employed. It is worthwhile taking time to resolve these issues at the outset. If other agencies are working in the area, it is a good idea to have an agreed rate of pay and agreed working hours so that there is unanimity of conditions between agencies. If these issues are not resolved a great deal of time and energy can be taken up on an almost daily basis resolving personnel issues - time that should be spent elsewhere. It can also lead to problems of security for local and international, staff as was recently the case in Rwanda.