Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences

    Risks to universal drinking water security are accelerating due to rapid demographic, climate and economic change. Policy responses are slow, uneven and largely inadequate to address the nature and scale of the global challenges. The challenges relate both to maintaining water security in increasingly fragile supply systems and to accelerating reliable access to the hundreds of millions who remain water-insecure. A conceptual framework illustrates the relationship between institutional, operational and financial risks and drinking water security outcomes. We apply the framework to nine case studies from rural and urban contexts in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Case studies are purposively selected based on established and emerging examples of political, technological or institutional reforms that address water security risks. We find broad evidence that improved information flows reduce institutional costs and promote stronger and more transparent operational performance to increase financial sustainability. However, political barriers need to be overcome in all cases through internal or external interventions that require often decadal time frames and catalytic investments. No single model exists, though there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that risks to drinking water security can be reduced even in the most difficult and challenging contexts.


    One contribution of 16 to a Theme Issue ‘Water security, risk and society’.


    • 1
      Cairncross S, Bartram J, Cumming O& Brocklehurst C. 2010 Hygiene, sanitation, and water: what needs to be done. PLoS Med. 7, 1000365. (doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000365). Crossref, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 2
      Hutton G& Haller L. 2004 Evaluation of the costs and benefits of water and sanitation improvements at the global level. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organisation. Google Scholar
    • 3
      Onda K, LoBuglio N& Bartram J. 2012 Global access to safe water: accounting for water quality and the resulting impact on MDG progress. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 9, 880–894. (doi:10.3390/ijerph9030880). Crossref, PubMed, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 4
      UN. 2011 The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. United Nations General Assembly, A/HRC/18/L.1, 23 September 2011. Google Scholar
    • 5
      Doshi V, Schulman G& Gabaldon D. 2007 Lights! Water! Motion!. The megacommunity way: mastering dynamic challenges with cross-boundary leadership(eds , Kleiner A& Delurey M), A strategy+business Reader, pp. 67–89. Booz Allen Hamilton. See (accessed 10 May 2013). Google Scholar
    • 6
      Dobbs R, Pohl H, Lin D-Y, Mischke J, Garemo N, Hexter J, Matzinger S, Palter R& Nanavatty R. 2013 Infrastructure productivity: how to save $1 trillion a year. McKinsey Global Institute Report. McKinsey & Co. See (accessed 10 May 2013). Google Scholar
    • 7
      Mara D& Horan N. 2003 The handbook of water and wastewater microbiology. London, UK: Academic Press. Google Scholar
    • 8
      Walker A. 2009 The independent review of charging for household water and sewerage services. Final report. London, UK: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. See Google Scholar
    • 9
      AWWA. 2012 Buried no longer: confronting America's water infrastructure challenge. American Water Works Association. See (accessed 1 August 2012). Google Scholar
    • 10
      ADB. 2004 Water for Asian cities. Utilities performance and civil society views. Manila, Philippines: Asian Development Bank. Google Scholar
    • 11
      Bannerjee S& Morella E. 2011 Africa's water and sanitation infrastructure: access, affordability, and alternatives. Washington, DC: World Bank. Google Scholar
    • 12
      WEF. 2012 Global risks 2012, 7th edn. Geneva, Switzerland: World Economic Forum. Google Scholar
    • 13
      Falkenmark M. 1982 Rural water supply and health. The need for a new strategy: summary of papers and discussions from the United Nations Interregional Seminar on Rural Water Supply, Uppsala, Sweden, 6–17 October 1980. Uppsala, Sweden: Scandinavian Institute for African Studies. Google Scholar
    • 14
      WHO/UNICEF. 2013 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation. Data resources and estimates. See (accessed 10 May 2013). Google Scholar
    • 15
      Bartram J, Elliott M& Chuang P. 2012 Getting wet, healthy and clean: why households matter. Lancet 380, 85–86. (doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60903-9). Crossref, PubMed, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 16
      Beck U. 1992 Risk society: towards a new modernity. London, UK: Sage. Google Scholar
    • 17
      Giddens A. 1999 Risk and responsibility. Mod. Law Rev. 62, 1–10. (doi:10.1111/1468-2230.00188). CrossrefGoogle Scholar
    • 18
      UN. 2002 Implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration Report of the Secretary-General, Fifty-seventh session, Item 44 of the provisional agenda. Follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit. United Nations, New York, NY, USA. Google Scholar
    • 19
      Davidson A, Howard G, Stevens M, Callan P, Fewtrell L, Deere D& Bartram J. 2005 Water safety plans: managing drinking-water quality from catchment to consumer. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organisation. Google Scholar
    • 20
      Fewtrell L& Bartram J. 2001 Water quality: guidelines, standards and health. Assessment of risk and risk management for water-related infectious disease. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organisation. Google Scholar
    • 21
      Rouse M. 2007 The institutional governance and regulation of water services: the essential elements. London, UK: IWA. Google Scholar
    • 22
      Harvey P& Reed B. 2007 Community-managed water supplies in Africa: sustainable or dispensable?. Community Dev. J. 42, 365–378. (doi:10.1093/cdj/bsl001). CrossrefGoogle Scholar
    • 23
      Sara J& Katz T. 1995 Making rural water sustainable: report on the impact of project rules. Washington, DC: UNDP-World Bank, Water and Sanitation Program. Google Scholar
    • 24
      Thompson J, et al.. 2001 Drawers of water II: 30 years of change in domestic water use and environmental health in East Africa. London, UK: International Institute for Environment and Development. Google Scholar
    • 25
      White G, Bradley D& White A. 1972 Drawers of water: domestic water use in East Africa. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Google Scholar
    • 26
      Whittington D, Davis J, Prokopy L, Komives K, Thorsten R, Lukacs H, Bakalian A& Wakeman W. 2009 How well is the demand-driven, community management model for rural water supply systems doing?: Evidence from Bolivia, Peru and Ghana. Water Policy 9, 696–718. (doi:10.2166/wp.2009.310). Crossref, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 27
      World Bank Water Demand Research Team. 1993 Demand for water in rural areas: determinants and policy implications. World Bank Res. Obs. 8, 47–70. (doi:10.1093/wbro/8.1.47). Crossref, PubMed, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 28
      Isham J& Kahkonen S. 2002 How do participation and social capital affect community-based water projects?: Evidence from Central Java, Indonesia. The role of social capital in development: an empirical assessment (eds , Grootaert C& van Bastelaer T). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
    • 29
      Khwaja A. 2007 Can good projects succeed in bad communities? Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Google Scholar
    • 30
      Kleemeier E. 2000 The impact of participation on sustainability: an analysis of the Malawi rural piped scheme. World Dev. 28, 929–944. (doi:10.1016/S0305-750X(99)00155-2). Crossref, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 31
      Narayan D. 1995 The contribution of people's participation: evidence from 121 rural water supply projects Environmentally Sustainable Development Occasional Paper Series No. 1. Washington, DC: World Bank. Google Scholar
    • 32
      Prokopy LS. 2005 The relationship between participation and project outcomes: evidence from rural water supply projects in India. World Dev. 33, 1801–1819. (doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2005.07.002). Crossref, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 33
      Arlosoroff S, Tschannerl G, Grey D, Journey W, Karp A, Langenegger O& Roche R. 1987 Community water supply: the handpump option. Washington, DC: World Bank. Google Scholar
    • 34
      Bakker K. 2010 Privatising water. Governance failure and the world's urban water crisis. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Google Scholar
    • 35
      Briscoe J& de Ferranti D. 1988 Water for rural communities: helping people help themselves. Washington, DC: World Bank. Google Scholar
    • 36
      UNDP. 2006 Beyond scarcity—power, poverty and the global water crisis. New York, NY: UNDP. Google Scholar
    • 37
      WaterAid. 2006 Bridging the gap. Citizen's action for accountability in water and sanitation. London, UK: WaterAid. Google Scholar
    • 38
      Bradley DJ& Bartram JK. 2013 Domestic water and sanitation as water security: monitoring, concepts and strategy. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 371, 20120420. (doi:10.1098/rsta.2012.0420). Link, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 39
      Finnida. 2004 Water supply, drainage and sanitation management programme in Haiphong 2001–2004 Project completion report, Finnida, December 2004. See (accessed 10 May 2013). Google Scholar
    • 40
      OECD. 2010 Pricing water resources and water and sanitation services. Paris, France: OECD. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
    • 41
      Foster T, Hope R, Thomas M, Cohen I, Krolikowski A& Nyaga C. 2012 Impacts and implications of mobile water payments in East Africa. Water Int. 37, 788–804. (doi:10.1080/02508060.2012.738409). Crossref, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 42
      Harvey P. 2007 Cost determination and sustainable financing for rural water services in sub-Saharan Africa. Water Policy 9, 373–391. (doi:10.2166/wp.2007.012). Crossref, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 43
      UN. 2012 World urbanization prospects—the 2011 revision. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, March 2012. See (accessed 2 November 2012). Google Scholar
    • 44
      IPCC. 2012 Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation. A special report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
    • 45
      Cubillo F. 2012 Coping with risk managing water distribution networks. Proc. Int. Conf. on Water Security, Risk and Society, Oxford, 16–18 April 2012. See Google Scholar
    • 46
      Kleemeier E& Narkevic J. 2010 Private operator models for community water supply. A global review of private operator experiences in rural areas. World Bank, Water and Sanitation Program, Field Note 56557, February 2010. Washington, DC: WSP. Google Scholar
    • 47
      ECA. 2012 European Union development assistance for drinking water supply and basic sanitation in sub-Saharan countries. European Court of Auditors, Special Report No 13/2012. Luxembourg, UK: Publications Office of the European Union. Google Scholar
    • 48
      RWSN Executive Steering Committee. 2010 Myths of the rural water supply sector. Perspectives No. 4. St Gallen, Switzerland: RWSN (Rural Water Supply Network), SKAT Foundation. See (accessed 10 May 2013). Google Scholar
    • 49
      Baumann E. 2009 May-day! May-Day! Our handpumps are not working!. Perspectives No. 1. St Gallen, Switzerland: RWSN (Rural Water Supply Network), SKAT Foundation. See (accessed 10 May 2013). Google Scholar
    • 50
      Hope RA, Foster T, Rouse M& Money A. 2012 Harnessing mobile communications innovations for water security. Glob. Policy 3, 433–442. (doi:10.1111/j.1758-5899.2011.00164.x). Crossref, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 51
      WASREB. 2012 Impact 5: a performance report of Kenya's water services sub-sector. Nairobi, Kenya: Water Services Regulatory Board. Google Scholar
    • 52
      Muhairwe WT. 2009 Making public enterprises work; from despair to promise: a turn around account. London, UK: IWA. Google Scholar
    • 53
      Cooke B& Kothari U. 2001 Participation: the new tyranny?. London, UK: Zed Books. Google Scholar
    • 54
      Davis J. 2004 Corruption in public service delivery: experience from South Asia's water and sanitation sector. World Dev. 32, 53–71. (doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2003.07.003). Crossref, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 55
      Marques RC. 2006 A yardstick competition model for Portuguese water and sewerage regulation. Utilities Policy 14, 175–184. (doi:10.1016/j.jup.2006.03.004). CrossrefGoogle Scholar
    • 56
      Dinar A. 2000 The political economy of water pricing reforms. Washington, DC: World Bank. Google Scholar
    • 57
      Mollinga P. 2008 Water, politics and development: framing a political sociology of water resources management. Water Altern. 1, 7–23. Google Scholar
    • 58
      Economist. 2011 The worth of water. An encouraging model suggests urban Asia's water problems could be easily fixed. The Economist 24 March 2011. See (accessed 3 November 2012). Google Scholar
    • 59
      WSP. 2010 The Karnataka Urban Water Sector Improvement Project. 24/7 water supply is achievable. Water and Sanitation Program, Field note, September 2010. New Delhi: Water and Sanitation Program. Google Scholar
    • 60
      Jalakam A. 2012 Continuous water supply: an essential component for achieving water security. See Google Scholar
    • 61
      Asthana V. 2008 Discourses of power and resistance in the water policy process of Delhi, India. PhD thesis, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL. Google Scholar
    • 62
      Gomes S. 2012 Metering Mumbai: potential of AMR technology to improve urban water governance. MSc dissertation, University of Oxford, UK. Google Scholar
    • 63
      Alkire S, Roche JM, Santos ME& Seth S. 2011 Multidimensional poverty index. Oxford, UK: Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI). Google Scholar
    • 64
      Gia LH& Fugelsnes T. 2010 Public and private piped water schemes. A review of progress in seven African countries. Water and Sanitation Program, Field note, October 2010. Google Scholar
    • 65
      Hope RA, Foster T& Thomson P. 2012 Reducing risks to rural water security in Africa. AMBIO 41, 773–776. (doi:10.1007/s13280-012-0337-7). Crossref, PubMed, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 66
      MacDonald AM, Bonsor HC, Ó Dochartaigh BE& Taylor RG. 2012 Quantitative maps of groundwater resources in Africa. Environ. Res. Lett. 7, 024009. (doi:10.1088/1748-9326/7/2/024009). Crossref, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 67
      Thomson P, Hope RA& Foster T. 2012 GSM-enabled remote monitoring of rural handpumps: a proof-of-concept study. J. Hydroinform. 14(4), 829–839. (doi:10.2166/hydro.2012.183). Crossref, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • 68
      Thomson P, Hope RA& Foster T. 2012 Is silence golden?: Of mobiles, monitoring and rural water supplies. Waterlines 31, 280–292. (doi:10.3362/1756-3488.2012.031). CrossrefGoogle Scholar
    • 69
      Therkildsen O. 1988 Watering white elephants: lessons from donor-funded planning and implementation of rural water supplies in Tanzania. Uppsala, Sweden: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies. Google Scholar
    • 70
      Tortajada C, Joshi Y& Biswas A. 2013 The Singapore water story: sustainable development in an urban city state. London, UK: Routledge. CrossrefGoogle Scholar