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close this bookUganda's Water Sector Development: Towards Sustainable Systems (SKAT, 1996)
close this folder6. Moving Forward in the Rural Water Sector
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentRural water supply and sanitation programmes
View the documentArea-based centrally implemented programmes
View the documentDecentralised rural water development
View the documentRural towns water and sanitation programme
View the documentFeatures of the implementation strategy

Rural towns water and sanitation programme

A growing number of communities in Uganda are emerging between the two extreme settings of scattered rural settlements or villages and larger urban areas. These centres encompass communities ranging from small towns to district centres and rural growth centres. They provide focus for increased social and economic activity in the local areas, which justify the provision of essential services such as schools, medical facilities, and basic water supply and sanitation systems.

During the past few years the DWD has, as a priority activity, prepared a nation-wide Rural Towns Water and Sanitation Programme (RTWSP). This programme addresses improvement of the water supply and sanitation services in small towns and rural growth centres. As part of this preparation a "Policies and Guidelines" document has been drafted which describes the strategy for the planning, design, implementation and maintenance of these water and sanitation facilities. The RTWSP policies and guidelines represent a major shift in government strategy towards decentralised operation and maintenance of services in urban areas currently provided by DWD. It should be mentioned that many policy elements contained in the RTWSP Policies and Guidelines document have been applied with good success in the larger rural water and sanitation projects.

Principles of the programme

The programme follows a demand-driven approach to planning, implementation, and operation of water supply and sanitation improvements in the small towns and rural growth centres. Beneficiaries will have a choice of technology, within the prevailing technical limitations and hence the choice of management. Those who wish to participate in the scheme will form Water User Groups (WUGs) and will make a contribution to the capital cost that varies with type of technology. They will commit themselves to manage and finance operation and maintenance. In the case of piped systems serving more than one WUG, a Water User Association (WUA) will be established to manage the system. In line with the decentralisation policy, the local authorities will play a major role in the planning and implementation process in each town. The DWD will plan, regulate and facilitate the process rather than implement and operate the schemes as before.

Objectives of the programme

The objectives of the RTWSP are:

- to assist all towns to obtain basic water and sanitation services, while encouraging the higher levels of service for those who can afford it;
- to increase the capacity of communities, the private sector and government to provide and maintain sustainable water supply and sanitation facilities;
- to promote better health, through improved personal hygiene, excreta and disposal and environmental management practices.

Basic service for water supply is defined as a protected, year-round supply of 20 to 25 litres per capita per day, preferably within 250 to 500 metres of all households and serving 200 to 300 persons per outlet. Higher service levels for piped water supply systems (yardtaps and house connections) are encouraged in order to increase revenue and thus better ensure sustainability of the individual schemes. In these cases the unit consumption figures are higher, typically in the range of 50 to 100 litres per capita per day.

Basic service for sanitation is defined as an improved household latrine. The Sanplat and VIP technologies are some of the means towards latrine improvements. Due attention will be paid to match service levels of sanitation and water supplies.

Financing arrangements

Financing arrangements under the RTWSP is as follows:

- the community will contribute the equivalent of one year's operation and maintenance costs as their contribution to the construction of a water supply system — this will also serve as an indicator of their ability to operate and maintain the chosen system in future;
- for private household connections, the cost of the connection will be borne in full by the individual (or institution), while the project will finance the source and distribution costs for these individual connections;
- operation and maintenance costs will be fully borne by the beneficiaries (and institutions) including the replacement of components with useful life expectancies of to about eight years;
- future rehabilitation and expansion of source works and mains will be financed on an appropriate cost sharing basis to be determined later.


Maintenance of point source water supply systems (handpumps, protected springs and public standpipes) will be the responsibility of individual WUGs through their respective Water and Sanitation Committee (WSC). Maintenance of all on-site sanitation systems will be the responsibility of individual households. The WSCs will supervise use of the water point, collect revenues, keep accounts, and make repairs themselves or hire the services of a private mechanic.

Maintenance of piped water and sanitation systems will be the responsibility of WUAs who normally will contract operation, maintenance and repair functions to a private entity. Household revenue collection will be the responsibility of individual WSCs, who will be charged by their WUA on the basis of water delivered as metered at individual outlets (standpipes and house connections).


The DWD, prior to officially inviting a particular town to participate in the project, will carry out a "low key" rapid resource survey. The survey will confirm the population size and geographic distribution; test the need and willingness to participate and pay; and, identify technical options that are feasible.

Thereafter, the project will establish a formal contact with the district and town. The RTWSP implementation process in a given town includes the following phases: (a) Promotion Phase; (b) Mobilisation Phase; (c) Planning and Design Phase; (d) Construction Phase; and, (e) Operations and Maintenance Phase.