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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 water supply and sanitation programmes

The Government attempts to meet its rural area target (75 per cent coverage by 2000) through the provision of basic services. It has defined basic services as:

"a protected (safe), year-round supply of 20 - 25 litres per capita per day, preferably within 1,500 metres (1.5 km) of all households.
The general design criteria is to serve a maximum of 200 to 300 persons per outlet.
Further, the difference in elevation between the household and the outlet should preferable not exceed 100 metres."
Uganda National Plan of Action for Children (UNPAC, 1992)

At present, projects catering for rehabilitation and expansion of rural water supply and sanitation services can be found in all 39 districts of Uganda — though at quite varying levels of activity.

The largest programmes are:

- RUWASA East Uganda Project covers a total of eight districts in the south-east of the country and targets a population of more than three million. After a first phase that started in 1990, it is about to enter its second phase also of a five-year duration. The project is Danida financed.

- WES, National Water and Environmental Sanitation Programme (formerly SWIP, South West Integrated Project, and WATSAN Programme), is a country-wide programme (rather than RUWASA which is area-based). It attempts to introduce implementation activities in thirty districts where no other donor financed projects are on-going, though in some cases with only limited impact due to low activity level. The programme is financed through multi-partite arrangements between UNICEF, SIDA, NGOs, and district authorities. A programme co-ordinator is located in DWD, and Government is taking overall implementation responsibilities.

- NURP, Northern Uganda Reconstruction Project, is a World Bank financed infrastructure project operating in eight of the northern districts. The water supply component includes emergency repairs of a few piped water schemes, but the budget is mainly geared towards provision of rural water supplies. The activities started in 1993 and are scheduled to last four years.

- RTWSP, Rural Towns Water and Sanitation Programme, addresses the needs of more than 60 smaller towns and rural growth centres. Policies and guidelines have been developed with assistance from the World Bank. A phased implementation is envisaged in the coming years based on "project packages" to be financed by a number of external support agencies including World Bank, Danida, Austrian Government and BADEA.

In addition, a number of other project activities in the rural water sector are in progress financed and executed by NGOs. Presently, the most prominent NGOs in the Ugandan context are: WaterAid (UK), AVSI (Italy), World Vision International, Lutheran World Federation and CARE.

Finally, some projects are on the drawing board. Most advanced is a JICA-financed rural water project to be implemented in three districts in the centre of the country.

Water supply

Depending upon local conditions, the DWD constructs protected springs, shallow wells (both hand-dug and augered) and deep boreholes. In most cases the DWD fits handpumps to these sources of supply but in a few cases, where conditions allow and demand exists, it constructs gravity-fed systems. In the future, protected springs and boreholes or wells fitted with handpumps will continue to be the dominant means of providing rural communities with drinking water.

With proper training, greater involvement and mobilisation, communities have the capacity to maintain water points once constructed. The community is responsible for fencing off areas around springs prone to pollution risks. A three-tier community-financed maintenance system that works at village, sub-county and district levels is being introduced.13


Sanitation is seen as an integral part of the community development strategy. It is both a fundamental component of primary health care and an essential component of the overall socio-economic development of the country through minimisation of water-borne diseases. Water development activities and promotion of sanitation are inter-dependent and inter-active.

Sanitation provisions make up an important component of the integrated water supply and sanitation schemes. In some cases, the DWD has not entertained a water supply project until a certain number of leaders in the recipient community has installed an improved latrine for use by their household. The intention was that no project should start without the key influencers within a community demonstrating a core level of support. This specific "integration" strategy, and the strictness of its policing, are subject to review presently.

In line with policies that demand user-absorption of costs, the DWD is progressively removing subsidies on sanitation platforms (Sanplats). It plans to phase out all subsidies on Sanplats by the year 2000. With the support of DDCs it is shifting construction of latrine slab production away from district headquarters towards sub-county and parish levels with the private sector playing an increasing role in production and sale.

Community-based Management System

The objective of a Community-based management system (CBMS) for the rural water supply sector is to establish a community-financed maintenance system operated and managed by the users.

The CBMS operates on the following levels:

- Village level (1st tier): users form a Water User Committee which appoints two caretakers for each source. The Committee collects funds for preventative maintenance and repairs. It is responsible for maintenance of the installation.

- Sub-county level (2nd tier): the private sector is responsible at this level. Private handpump mechanics undertake repairs and preventative maintenance on the handpumps. Local shops distribute spare parts. The role of the RC3 and sub-county Water and Sanitation Committees is limited to selection of handpump mechanics and spare parts dealers, and partial payment for the training of mechanics.

- District level (3rd tier): district-level spare part dealers, appointed by spare part manufacturers, distribute spares within wholesale and retail markets. DWD's District Water Officers monitor the operation of the maintenance system. They also operate Borehole Maintenance Units that undertake rehabilitation and repairs beyond the capacity of the handpump mechanics. Over time the private sector will take over this function.

- National level: spare part distributors provide spares and distribute them to private district-level dealers. DWD monitors the general performance of the maintenance system and takes corrective actions at policy level as appropriate.

Hygiene Education

Mass education remains the most important factor in rural sanitation.14 Therefore, each integrated water supply and sanitation project involves a strong education component. In the past, sanitation programmes have not been very successful because of operational problems that include low levels of community awareness and participation, and conflicting cultural values and practices.

Over time, a wide variety of appropriate methods of education have been developed, including community meetings, drama, radio programmes, posters, calendars, etc. School is seen as a place where the message can be delivered to a receptive audience. Integrated water supply, improved latrine and education programmes invariably use the local school as one of their demonstration sites.