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Natural Resources and Conservation 2(4): 59-69, 2014 http://www.hrpub.

DOI: 10.13189/ nrc.2014.020402
Challenges of Potable Water Supply System in Rural Ethiopia:
In rural Ethiopia, although considerable efforts have been made to improve and expand access to
potable water supply, many Ethiopian rural communities still suffer from lack of safe drinking
water. This research work intends to assess the challenges of potable water supply in selected
rural kebeles1 of Gonji Kolela woreda2 in Amhara National Regional State, Ethiopia. Survey
findings of the research show that, of the total 292 sample respondents those who use hand dug
well, developed spring and rope pump accounts 47.9%, 12% and 8.9% respectively. The
remaining 31.2% of the respondents are still using either river or unprotected spring for their
domestic consumption. Evidences from the data revealed that the challenges for adequate
provision and management of improved water schemes in the study area are multifaceted
including lack of adequate technical and financial support from zonal and regional water
resource bureau; inadequate skilled man power; inaccessibility of underground water or
intermission of the water after digging water wells; lack of adequate support from the
community; inaccessibility for transportation and absence of spare parts shop and equipments in
the nearby area. Thus, strengthening the institutional capacity in the planning of water supply
projects at local level should be a timely measure to increase the adequacy of improved water
supply and sustain the functionality of the existing improved water supply schemes of the area.
Keywords፡ Potable Water supply, Sustainability, Water Scheme, Community Participation
1. Introduction
1.1. Background to the Problem
1 The smallest administrative unit in Ethiopia 2 Administrative unit, in Ethiopia, higher than
Kebele Water supply plays the most important role in both social and economic development.
Improved public health, better living standards and economic development are intimately related
to the availability and access to adequate potable water supply and sanitation. It has been widely
argued that safe and adequate supplies of water together with proper sanitation are basic needs
and essential components of primary health care [8, 15, 11]. Access to safe water for drinking
and sanitation should be available to every human being, now and in the future [17]. Realizing
the critical importance of supplying potable water, a number of diversified and multipurpose
international, regional and national governments, local and international NGOs exerted their
efforts and invest huge capital every year at global scale in general and in developing countries
in particular, where water supply is relatively scarce, to ensure an improved provision of safe
water supply service [14].
However, despite many years of development efforts, access to improved water supplies and
sanitation services in the world continues to be extremely marginal. More than one billion people
do not have access to safe drinking water and over 2.5 billion people have inadequate sanitation
[21]. The majority of the world’s populations without access to improved water supply or
sanitation services live in developing regions mainly in Africa and Asia [14].
Moreover, the number of people who lack access to improved water supply could increase to 2.3
billion by 2025 [12].
Lack of sustainability of the water supply infrastructures being one, most of the development
efforts that have been done so far in most areas are constrained by different factors [6, 1, 7]. The
problem is worse in many parts of the developing nations, particularly in rural areas, where many
people lack enough water to stay healthy. Inhabitants of rural areas representing 84% of the
global population use unimproved sources of drinking water, such as surface water, unprotected
spring water, unprotected well water, and water from tanker trucks [14]. Furthermore, people
have to travel long distances to collect water and often the water that is available is not safe to
drink. In short, although a worldwide recognition has been given to the importance of safe water
supply and many efforts have been exerted so far; in many parts of the developing nations like
Ethiopia, particularly in rural areas, it remained marginal [1]. Hence, explaining this failure and
knowing that water supply problems have multiple impacts on people's health, education and
nutrition, and could prevent a country from reaching its development potential, a lot of effort is
required to change this situation. Thereby, the researchers boldly underline the need for
undertaking a research work that aims at identifying the challenges of adequate and sustainable
rural water supply system in Ethiopia.
1.2. Statement of the Problem
Even though Ethiopia has abundant water resources, for centuries many Ethiopian people have
suffered from lack of access to safe drinking water and it has not yet benefited the population to
any significant extent [1, 9]. Recently, despite its poor and largely rural population, and despite a
historic legacy of low investment in infrastructure, Ethiopia has been making substantial
progress in increasing water supply coverage. Thus, rural water supply coverage has increased at
promising rates since 1990, from 8 percent to 26 percent according to Joint Monitoring
Programme figures, and from 11 percent to 62 percent according to government figures [2].
However, although this could represent significant progress, many of these reforms remain
incomplete, and monitoring rural water supply coverage across such a large population and
geographic area is also a challenge [1, 2].
In Ethiopia particularly in rural areas access to potable water supply and sanitation services are
among the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa. National water supply coverage in 2004 was estimated
at 36.7% with urban water supply coverage estimated at 82.5% and rural water supply at only
24.2% [1].
The figure shows that as compared to the large rural population potable water supply coverage in
the rural areas of Ethiopia is very marginal and it still remains very low because of limited
progress in water supply activities in these areas. Hence, the majority of drinking water sources
in rural Ethiopia are still rivers, streams, hand-dug wells, and intermittent springs, none of which
are protected from flooding or livestock, wildlife, and human contamination [1, 2].
Despite the low coverage figures, in Ethiopia, it is also quite common to observe non-functional
water sources without adequate protection. About 33% of rural water supply projects in the
country are estimated to be non-functional which could be attributed to different factors [1].
This means that effective coverage is even lower. In the dry months, most of the rural people and
livestock depend primarily on traditional water sources such as rivers, streams and lakes, which
are very often contaminated. Majority of households lack knowledge of personal hygienic
practices as a result of which a large percentage (up to 70% in rural areas) of cases of morbidity
and mortality is attributable to inadequate water supply and unhygienic waste management
[1]. In Amhara National Regional State potable water supply coverage is low at only 30% [18].
Though the coverage in the Region has been higher than the country total, according to a survey
in 50 Woredas, still about 70% of households do not have access to water supply, using unsafe
water from wells, rivers and ponds. As a result, many people suffer from water born diseases.
Parasites, diarrhea and vomits (14%) are the second top diseases in the region next to malaria
(48%) [10]. In the country, at both the national and regional scale, the issue of rural water supply
is recognized as critical and is reflected in national rural development policy and poverty
eduction strategies. The Ministry of Water Resources (MoWRs), along with the support of many
international and local governmental and non-governmental organizations, is actively involved at
the grassroots level to improve the situation, though potable water supply coverage is still in its
infancy in many parts of the country, particularly in rural areas, where 84% of the population
lives [1]. Different attempts and research works have been also made in different parts of the
country by different governmental organizations, individuals and voluntary sectors to identify the
causes for failing of adequate and sustainable rural water supply system. As an output those
previous studies identified some of the causes. However, it is not possible to generalize that
similar factors are responsible in other rural areas of the country like Gonji Kolela woreda of
Amhara National Regional State where the problem is also serious but no any study has yet been
conducted. Moreover, as the level of investment in rural water supply by international and
national organizations increases, more specific information is needed on the challenges, both at
the planning and implementation phases, of rural water supply systems of different areas.
In line with the above assertion and to find a comprehensive way out to the problem, there
should be detailed studies which aim at investigating the challenges of potable water supply
systems in different rural parts of the country. Therefore, the study on the challenges of water
supply in rural kebeles of Gonji Kolela woreda is an attempt in this dimension.
1.3. Objectives of the Study
The general objective of this research is to assess the challenges of potable water supply system
in selected rural kebeles of Gonji Kolela woreda; West Gojam zone, Ethiopia. Specifically the
study intended:
To look at the existing major sources of water and potable water supply schemes in the
study area.
To explore constraints related to potable water supply and management systems in the
study area.
To assess the level and the type of community participation and contribution in the
development of water supply schemes in the study area.
Natural Resources and Conservation 2(4): 59-69, 2014 61
Figure 1. Location Map of Gonji Kolela Woreda
2. Research Methods and Materials
2.1. Study Area Description
Gonji Kolela woreda is one of the 105 woredas of Amhara National Regional State of Ethiopia.
It is part of West Gojjam zone of the region. Geographically Gonji kolela woreda is located
11005’ to 11020’N (Latitude), 37020’ to 37053’E (Longitude) and within the altitudinal range of
1400-4300 meter above sea level. This woreda is bordered by four woredas, namely Yilmana
Densa in the north, Dega Damot in the south, Quarit in the west and Bibugn in the east [5].
Climatically, Gonji Kolela woreda falls into three climatic zones known as "Dega" , Woinadega"
and "Kolla" . The mean annual temperature level of the woreda ranges from 200c - 300c. It
receives a mean annual rain fall of 1700mm-2000mm [5].
According to the 2007 national population and housing census, Gonji Kolela woreda has a total
population of 106,656 of which 53,669 are male and 52,987 are female [3]. The dominant ethnic
group of the woreda is Amhara. Amharic is the dominant language spoken by the great portion
of the population.
2.2. Research Design
Generally this study can be seen as a descriptive cross-sectional study with a central task of
investigating challenges of rural water supply system in selected rural kebeles of Gonji Kolela
woreda. The study used a mixed approach with a central premise of; the use of quantitative and
qualitative approaches in combination provides a better understanding of research problems than
either approach alone [4]. Hence, the mixed approach that is used in this research employs
trategies of inquiry that involve collection of qualitative and quantitative data simultaneously to
best understand the research problem under investigation. The study was guided by the principles
of multiple sources and subsequent crosschecking of information as well as by applying various
data collection instrument and analysis techniques- both quantitative and qualitative.
2.3. Data Sources
A combination of both quantitative and qualitative data from both primary and secondary
sources was generated. The primary data was collected from residents of the sample rural
kebeles, officials of the woreda’s and sample rural kebeles’ water bureau and from field visit. In
an effort to supplement the primary data and make this research work more valid and worthy,
relevant secondary sources pertinent to the study were consulted. Accordingly, official statistics
and reports available in water projects implementing agencies' offices were the major sources of
secondary data for this study. Moreover, different written documents both published and
unpublished- books, journals and research works in relation to the issue under consideration;
government policy and strategy were reviewed to supplement the study.
2.4. Method of Data Collection
Challenges of Potable Water Supply System in Rural Ethiopia: The Case of Gonji Kolela
Woreda, West Gojjam Zone, Ethiopia As the study used a descriptive cross-sectional research
design the data was collected for multiple cases at a single point in time. To meet the intended
objectives of the research, primary data was collected from households and concerned offices
using questionnaire, interviews and observation checklist. Prior to the commencement of the
actual data collection, pilot test was conducted to check the workability of the household survey
questionnaire and accordingly some adjustments were made. The actual household survey was
carried out from July to September, 2012. Open and close ended questionnaire was employed to
collect primary data from the households about the provision of water service; functionality of
rural water supplies; the level and the type of community participation in the development of
water supply schemes; willingness of the community to sustain the system; level of consumers’
satisfaction for the service provided and institutional support during design, construction and
maintenance phases. Informal discussions were also conducted with user communities to get
further information. Interviews were also held with woreda experts and sample kebeles’ water
project coordinators about their support to the community on water service management through
community tanning and awareness creation; communities’ participation in the development and
management of the water schemes; and the challenges of potable water supply in the study area.
To understand the realities of the water supply system field visits were also conducted. The field
observation helped the researchers to identify the standard of construction of the water schemes;
the status or functionality of the available water supplies; and the way of protection of the water
2.5. Sampling
The focus of the study is on the challenges of water supply in the rural areas of Gonji Kolela
Woreda of West Gojam Zone, in Amhara National Regional State of Ethiopia. The researchers
selected the study woreda purposely having the information from officials of rural water bureau
of West Gojam Zone as it is one of the woredas where water supply is poor but no any study has
yet been conducted that could identify the causes for failing of adequate and sustainable water
supply system in the area. The woreda has one town and 24 rural kebeles with rural population of
102,404 and urban population of 4,252 [3]. The research focused on the rural kebeles of the
woreda and thus it employed a multi stage sampling technique.
First stage: Selection of Sample Rural Kebele Administrations From the existing 24 rural kebeles
of the woreda, a total of eight rural kebeles were selected as a sample. To select the sample
kebeles, first the existing 24 rural kebeles were stratified into two dominant ago-climatic zones
of the woreda - Kolla and Woinadega. Then, to have a representative sample, 3 kebeles, namely
Zanat, Wegel Zegansa and Weleke, out of 10 Kolla rural kebeles and 5 kebeles, namely Sheba,
Ginb Geregera, Kore Tenkere, MentaDeber, Gonji, out of 14 Woinadega rural kebeles were
randomly selected.
Second stage: Selection of Households
As beneficiaries are the main primary data sources of this study, from the total of 5840
households of the eight sample rural kebeles a total of 292 households, which was proportionally
allocated for the respective sample kebeles, were included in the sample population (Table 1).
Then to maintain the representativeness of the study, respondents were picked systematically at a
distance of every ith person/household/.
i = N/n Where, ‘N’ is the total number HHs of a sample rural kebele and ‘n’ is the number of
sample HHs of the kebele.
Table 1. Summary of Household Survey Sample Size
Woreda Agro Climatic Zone Sample Kebeles
House Holds
Number of Total Households Number of Sample Households
Gonji Kolela
Zanat 480 24
Wegel Zegansa 580 29
Weleke 440 22
Woina Dega
Sheba 600 30
Ginb Geregera 1162 58
Kore Tenkere 1158 58
Menta Deber 740 37
Gonji 680 34
Source: Field survey data, 2012
Natural Resources and Conservation 2(4): 59-69, 2014 63
Figure 2. Map of Sample Kebeles
2.6. Method of Data Analysis
The data, both quantitative and qualitative, gathered through each tool was organized, analyzed
and interpreted to meet the objectives of the study. For data analysis, combinations of
quantitative and qualitative methods were used. The quantitative data collected through
household survey/questionnaire/ was organized and analyzed in a way that first the responses for
the close ended questions were edited, coded and feed to computer by applying appropriate
software (SPSS version 17). Then descriptive statistics mainly frequency, percentage, cross
tabulation and mean values was computed for analysis purpose.
On the other hand the qualitative data collected using open ended questions of the survey
questionnaire; interviews held with technical staff members of the woreda water bureau, kebele
administration officials and water committees and using informal discussions with the user
communities was organized and analyzed qualitatively through content analysis. For this, first,
the tape recorded information, and the note from the informal discussion and field observation
was transcribed and translated from the local language (Amharic) to English. Second, by reading
through all of the qualitative data, it was reviewed and organized to develop a general
understanding of the data set and short memos were prepared which will best help in organizing
and categorizing the data in to concepts either by question or by case. Then, through narrative
description the results of the entire qualitative data was analyzed and interpreted. Lastly, the
analysis and interpretation of qualitative and quantitative data are integrated to handle the
research problem.
3. Results and Discussion
3.1. Overview of Water Supply Schemes, the Water Sources and Use Practices in Gonji kolela
Woreda (Table 2). Of these water points, during the study time, 399
3.1. 1. Overview of Water Supply Schemes
According to the statistical report of the woreda’s rural water resource bureau, so far a total of
467 water supply points (410 hand dug wells, 20 rope pump, 34 spring development, 2 shallow
well and 1 deep well) were constructed in the 24 rural kebeles of Gonji kolela woreda were
functional and 21 were found to be non-functional. From the 24 rural kebeles, in three of them,
namely, in Weleke, Zanat and Fiche none of these improved water supply scheme types exist.
Most of the water projects are designed in coordinated manner. The Finnish International
Development Agency (FINNIDA) provide the fund and the regional government undertake
detailed study on essential matters like the depth at which water could be accessed; the level of
the water flow and the sustainability of the water amount and flow. Experts of the region
participate in the entire activity of the project from site selection up to project establishment.
They also provide technical support after the launching of projects.
64 Challenges of Potable Water Supply System in Rural Ethiopia: The Case of Gonji Kolela
Woreda, West Gojjam Zone, Ethiopia
Table 2. Water Scheme Types in Rural kebeles of Gonji Kolela Woreda
Rural Kebeles Water Scheme Type
Total Hand Dug Well Rope Pump Spring Development Shallow Well Deep Well
35 6 2 - - 43
Ginb Geregera
43 1 2 1 - 47
Qolela Kusquam 34 5 - - - 39
Abadray 11 - 1 - - 12
Dem Dingay 19 - 1 - - 20
Yenachi 31 - 4 - - 35
31 1 - - - 32
Ardesa Eyesus 10 - 2 - - 12
Washera 24 - 5 - - 29
K/Gebreal 22 - - - - 22
Akile 20 - 2 - - 22
Debay 9 - 2 - - 11
Kenchechil 13 - 2 - - 15
Debre Medhanit 7 - 1 - - 8
Wegel Zegansa
Kore Tenkere
40 4 2 1 1 48
Weyzazert 24 2 2 - - 28
Menta Deber
32 1 - - - 33
Angofe - - 2 - - 2
Gar Ginbet - - 1 - - 1
Fiche - - - - - 0
Shebele - - 3 - - 3
TOTAL 410 20 34 2 1 467
* Sample Kebeles
Source: Gonji Kolela Woreda Water Bureau, 2012
3.1.2. Current Major Water Sources, Water Use Practices and Existing Improved Water Supply
Schemes in the Sample Kebeles.
The survey finding on the current water source (figure 3) portrays, hand dug well, developed
springs, rope pump, rivers and unprotected springs are the major sources in the sample kebeles. It
was also found out that, except in Zanat and Weleke, hand dug well used by 47.9% of the sample
respondents is the dominant current water source in other kebeles (figure 4). Developed spring
and Rope pump account for 12% and 8.9% of the total respectively. Whereas, those, who are
currently using river and unprotected spring as a source of water account for 18.2 % and 13% of
the total respondents respectively, which could be one indication for the inadequacy in the
supply of water in the area. In order to have a full picture about the current water sources,
respondents were also asked about the estimated distance of the current water source from their
home, estimated average time taken for a single trip and estimated average waiting time at the
water source to fetch water. Similar to other rural parts of the country, in the sample kebeles
fetching of water is usually the responsibility of women and children. Of the total respondents
for 67.8% and 14.7% of the sample households fetching is the responsibility of women and
children respectively. The remaining 17.5% reported that fetching is the responsibility of others
(relatives or cowboys). Men/husbands fetch water only when children and women are not able to
do so (for example when they get sick). In almost all sample Kebeles women and children travel,
on an average, 2 times per day using a 20 liter of jerry can or traditional clay pot (with capacity
of 25 liters on an average) to fetch water from the water source.
Looking at the average distance of the current water source from home, of the total respondents
the majority 45.9% reported that the current water source is located at an estimated distance of
700 or more meters. The next great proportion of respondents 22.9% accounts for those who
travel an approximate distance of 100- 300 meters. Only 3.4% reported to travel less than 100
meters. Natural Resources and Conservation 2(4): 59-69, 2014 65
Source: Computed from the primary data collected for the study, September, 2012.
Figure 3. Current Major Water Sources of Sample Kebeles
Source: Computed from the primary data collected for the study, September, 2012.
Figure 4. Respondents’ Proportion by Current Major Water Source 66 Challenges of Potable
Water Supply System in Rural Ethiopia: The Case of Gonji Kolela Woreda, West Gojjam Zone,
Ethiopia Regarding the average time taken for a single trip to fetch water from the current water
source the statistical finding of the survey indicates that 62% of the total respondents spend on an
average approximately 30 to 60 minute. About 19.5% of the respondents reported as they need
more than an hour. The remaining 18.5% need less than 30 minutes. In addition to the longer
hour for the trip, majorities of the respondents are also forced to wait longer at the water source.
Accordingly, 58.2% of the total respondents spend on an average between 30 to 60 minute at the
water source to secure water needs and 32.5 % spends less than 30 minute. Still 9.3% of the
respondents reported as they wait more than one hour. The majority of the respondents also
explained that waiting time is higher for hand-pumps than the protected springs, due to the single
get-valve and the requirement of labor and time to pump water. They further state that the
required time increases significantly during the dry season as the water volume decrease, and
even in some areas it may dried up. Amount of water consumed per day was also the other area
of interest. Hence, respondents were asked about the average amount of water they use per day
for domestic consumption (drinking, cooking, bathing, washing clothes and dishes).
Accordingly, the statistical finding indicates that, the majority (39%) of the respondents consume
20 or less liters of water per day per household which is below the standard stated by WHO. The
next great proportion of respondents (38.7%) consumes 21 to 40 liters per day per household.
Whereas, 18.2 % of the total sample respondents reported as their household consumes 41-60
liters of water per day and the remaining 4.1% of the respondents consume more than 60 liters of
water per day per household. Moreover, the respondents were also asked about the adequacy of
this water amount for their daily household consumption. The survey result revealed that for
about 35.3% of the respondents the water used per day were not found to be adequate and hence
they are not satisfied with it. Only 13.7% of the respondents reported as they are fully satisfied
with the amount of water as it is adequate for their household daily consumption. The remaining
51% suggested that though the water amount may not be adequate for their household daily
consumption, as they currently have a better access they are partially satisfied. Furthermore, as
the statistic in table 3 indicates, in the sample kebeles of the existing water scheme types hand
dug well which accounts 89.4 % is the dominant one, followed by rope pump and spring
development accounting 6.3% and 2.9 % respectively. As to the status of the water schemes
during the study time 94.7% were functional and 5.3% were non- functional. The statistic further
portrays that from the sample kebeles in two of them, namely, Zanat and Weleke none of the
water supply scheme types exist. All these implies that water facilities should be as accessible as
possible to all segments of the population to better satisfy daily water requirements of individual
3.2. Challenges of Improved Water Supply and Management Systems in Gonji Kolela Woreda
The above findings - the existence of households who still depend on rivers and stream for
domestic water need; the longer distance the majorities travel; the longer travel and waiting time
to fetch water; the existence of non-functional water schemes; the dissatisfaction of the
majorities with the water amount they get; and even the none existence of either schemes in the
two kebeles (Zanat and Weleke) suggest the inadequacy in the supply and management of water
in sample rural kebeles of Gonji Kolela woreda.
Table 3. Type and Status of Water Schemes in Sample Kebeles
Rural Kebeles
Water Scheme Type Functionality Status
Hand Dug
Functional Non-Functional
Kore Tenkere 40 4 2 1 1 47 1 48
Sheba 31 1 - - - 30 2 32
Ginb Geregera 43 1 2 1 - 45 2 47
Menta Deber 32 1 - - - 30 3 33
Gonji 35 6 2 - - 41 2 43
Zanat - - - - - - - 0
Wegel Zegansa 5 - - - - 4 1 5
Weleke - - - - - - - 0
TOTAL 186 13 6 2 1 197 11 208
Source: Gonji Kolela Woreda Water Resource Bureau, 2012
Natural Resources and Conservation 2(4): 59-69, 2014 67
As part of the assessment of the challenges for adequate provision and management of water
schemes, interviews were held with the official of the woreda’s water resource bureau and with
the sample kebeles’ water project coordinators. The interviews results generate the following
challenges being dominant:
 Lack of adequate technical and financial support from zonal and regional water resource
bureau. The woreda’s water resource bureau officer reported that the required technical,
material and financial supports from the region are not being adequately provided for the
woreda. This highly deterred the woreda’s water resource bureau in performing well in
water supply and management activities in the woreda.
 Shortage of human resource
According to the report of the official of the woreda’s water bureau, the number of workers in
the woreda is far less adequate. Moreover, most of the workers are not experts which highly
limited the presence of at least a single expert at kebele level and thus restrain the timely
response to maintain inoperative water schemes. Currently at kebele ለevel there is no trained
supervisor. Hence, the responsible persons for water affairs in the sample kebeles are the
kebeles’ administrators. This result in poor supervision and information gap between the woreda
water resource bureau and the kebeles, thereby timely measures could not be given if there is any
failure on water schemes.
 Inaccessibility and /or intermission of Underground water
Inaccessibility and intermission of underground water is mentioned as big challenge
predominantly in all kolla kebeles of the woreda. Both the woreda’s water resource bureau
official and water resource coordinators of sample kolla kebeles, (Zanat and Weleke), where
water schemes are totally absent, reported that this is a big challenge for improved water supply
in these kebeles. According to their report, in most parts of these and other kolla kebeles
underground water cannot be easily accessed, even after digging a well up to 30 meters. In some
parts of these kebeles, once they dig the well and access the water they face intermission of the
water. This is usually common to those sites where there are huge rocks. In some other sites once
the water is accessed and the scheme is installed, the level of the water flow decrease.
 Lack of adequate support from the community
Despite the presence of people who have interest and willingness to support and participate in
water scheme development, there are others who are not willing to support the project in any
aspect, particularly in paying monthly fees and maintenance cost. In each site of water schemes
there is a monthly fee of 1 birr which is used for the salary of the guard of the water scheme. As
the report of the kebeles’ water project coordinators indicates, there are some service users who
believe that woreda water office head is the owner of the water service so that they expect
whatever costs to be covered by the office. The willingness of these people to pay the
maintenance fee is influenced by the availability of alternative water sources in their locality. As
hey have alternative water sources, they could not respond immediately for the maintenance of
inoperative water schemes, waiting for the woreda’s water office to cover the
cost and maintain it.
 Inaccessibility for transportation
In Gonji Kolela woreda most the rural kebeles are inaccessible for transportation. There is also
scarcity of vehicles. According to the account of the official of the woreda’s water resource
bureau there is only one double pickup car at woreda level. This makes difficult the general
planning, implementation, monitoring and management activities of the water supply schemes of
the woreda.

 Absence of spare parts

As to the account of the woreda’s water resource bureau official, there is no single spare part hop
within the woreda. They bring all the required materials for installation and maintenance of the
water schemes from the nearby woredas, mainly from Yilmana Densa. Hence, the materials and
equipments could not be accessed at the required time. This also highly deterred the adequate
provision of potable water using the available water schemes as it restrains the timely
maintenance of inoperative water schemes.
3.3. Community Participation in the Development and Management of Water Supply Schemes
Community’s participation during and after project implementation is a key issue of
sustainability and has a great role in the development of improved water schemes as it is believed
to increase the sense of ownership. Accordingly, from the study it has been found that, in the
study woreda the communities have shown active participation in initiating the project idea and
providing material, labor and financial support. At the initial stage need assessment and
promotion activities is undertake at Kebele level. Once the community expresses the need,
consultation and discussion is held between woreda’s water resource bureau and the community
about the selection of site and technology type and expected support from the community.
As to the view of the official of the woreda’s water resource bureau and kebeles’ water project
coordinators, the majorities of the communities were willing and participated highly in the
development of the projects made so far. The household survey support this fact; of the total 205
respondents who reported the presence of water scheme around their locality, 88.3% stated as
they participated in different activities during project development. The remaining 11.7%
reported as they did not participate and hence initially they were not allowed to use the water
From the interviewees’ account it has been found that the communities have shown active
participation during project 68 Challenges of Potable Water Supply System in Rural Ethiopia:
The Case of Gonji Kolela Woreda, West Gojjam Zone, Ethiopia initiation and
construction/development phases; although much participation was not observed in selection of
the site and type of technology, as it requires some technical knowhow. The statistical report also
supports this. Of the total respondents 85.4% confirmed as the project idea emanated from the
community; 82.4% reported as the site selection was done predominantly by the woreda water
office and 83.9% also asserted as they were not involved in technology selection.
To have a full picture about communities’ contribution, data was collected on the type of support
they provided. Accordingly, it was found that, of 181 respondents who participated in the project
development 44.8% contributed their labor, money and local materials; 28.2% contributed labor
and money; 7.7% contributed labor and local material; 7.2% contributed labor, money and local
material; 5.5% afforded only their labor and remaining 6.6% had contribution either in money or
material. In addition to participation during the project construction, communities’ responsibility
and participation in managing the water supply systems during operation is also the key for the
sustainability of the schemes. Field observations had given a chance to observe communities’
participation in the management and use of the water schemes. The presence of fences and
guards in most of water points is a positive participatory response from the beneficiaries
reflecting their desire to sustain the water schemes. The finding of the household survey and
interviews with the water project coordinators of the sample Kebeles also reflected the high
degree of responsibility the majorities (197) assume and have in protecting and maintaining the
long-term performance of the water schemes. Hence, they are performing different activities
including paying service fee on time; labor and money contribution during operation and
maintenance; protecting the schemes from damage and contamination by fencing and planting
In general, in the sample kebeles of Gonji Kolela woreda the existing participation and
contribution of the community in development and management of water supply scheme was
found to be promising for future planning and implementation of additional schemes in the area
to enhance adequacy of water supply and better satisfy the community’s water need.
4. Conclusion and Recommendations
The social and economic importance of provision of potable water supply is widely recognized.
Water supply projects have impacts on people's lives, which extend far beyond the expected
improvements to health and reduction in time spent to collect water.
In Ethiopia rural water coverage has increased at promising rates since 1990, from 8 percent to
26 percent according to JMP figures, and from 11 percent to 62 percent according to government
figures. Despite such improvements, rural water supply coverage across such a large population
and geographic area is found to be a challenge; and so it is timely to assess the conditions in
different parts of the country. Thus, this research is an attempt in this direction.
From the findings of the study, it can be concluded that the water supply in the study area, Gonji
Kolela Woreda, is far less adequate due to multiple reasons. The study elicited the main reasons
why water supply systems have become inadequate in the area. The woreda technicians or
experts are few in number and thus are not able to provide technical support in all sites of the
woreda’s water supply schemes. Moreover, the institutional, technical, material and financial
support to the woreda water bureau was found to be very weak, which highly deter the capacity
of the bureau. This weak institutional capacity was due to shortage of skilled manpower, lack of
logistics and lack of sufficient budget for monitoring and follows up and operation and
Building financial capacity for a well-organized and equipped woreda office requires partnership
among the regional state, the local community as owners of the schemes, and NGOs as
supporter. Although there is a fairly good level of functionality in the woreda, in some of the
water schemes partial and complete non-functionality were observed and this highly limited
effective coverage in the area. If meaningful sustainability in water schemes is to be achieved,
renewing or replacing the system when it gets old or unable to function, is paramount.
In the study areas, involvement of local communities to decisions related to development of rural
water supply is great. From the study it has been found that the participation of local people
during project initiation and development phases was significant. The willingness of the society
to participate in and contribute to the development and management of water supply projects was
found to be promising for further project planning and implementation in the area.
For the success in the achievement of sustainable rural water supply coverage in Gonji Kolela
woreda, it is recommended to give attention to the following major actions:
To achieve meaningful sustainability with the right support framework and strengthen the
managerial and technical capacity at woreda level, attention should be given to capacity
building in terms of manpower, logistics and budget. Thus, appropriate, and sustainable
financing strategies are required from regional and zonal bureaus not only for day-to-day
management practices, but also for cost recovery to replicate the system.
In order to keep water supply system sustainable, there should be preventive and regular
maintenance program by local institutions. It is, therefore, suggested that the woreda’s water
resource bureau in Natural Resources and Conservation 2(4): 59-69, 2014 69 coordination with
the community, and the zonal and regional water resource bureau should have to take a timely
measure in maintaining the non-functional water schemes. Even though community participation
by itself is not sufficient, knowing that the community’s need, initiation and participation in the
area is promising, by mobilizing resources and finance, sector participants should design and
implement additional water schemes to enhance water supply in the area. To strengthen the
sustainability of water supply systems in the area there should be investment in training for
households and water committee. The provision of training could enable them to undertake a
timely maintenance for inoperative water supply schemes.
Finally, the importance of further detailed research to explore the hydro-geological aspect of the
water supply sources in the area, particularly in the drier parts, is highly recommended.
The researchers are very grateful to Bahir Dar University for its financial support to undertake
this research. We owe our sincere gratitude to all of the authors of the materials that we have
reviewed in this research. We would like also to express our appreciation to the head of Gonji
Kolela woreda water resource bureau and the staff members; and sample rural kebeles’ water
project coordinators for hosting and providing us the required support and necessary data to
undertake this study. Besides, the enumerators deserve our warmest appreciation for their
cooperation during data collection. We are also gratefully for sample household respondents of
the study area whose trust, kind assistance and collaboration made this study possible.

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