Justine Olweny Potrate
Justine Olweny Potrate
Justine Olweny Potrate
A new technical guide from the secretariats of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) addresses the integration … Read more
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The UN 2023 Water Conference will be held in New York, from 22 to 24 March 2023. The event, the first of its kind since 1977, is formally known as … Read more
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photos matameye niger 040
photos matameye niger 040
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has released A rapid review of effective financing for policy, implementation and partnerships addressing drought risks. The report presents an … Read more
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Summary: the severity of climate impacts on WASH services is uncertain. “Low-regrets” investments or interventions are those which generate net economic benefits under a range of the most plausible scenarios of climate impact severity. The concept is explored in Figure 1, which illustrates relationships between net benefits and the severity of climate impacts for different types of high/low/no-regrets options. It is also important to explore non-climate uncertainty, ideally in a probabilistic way.
Uncertainty is when we have imperfect information about variables in the present or the future. Even though the effects of climate change are increasingly upon us already, the scale and nature of their economic impacts remain uncertain (Burke et al., 2015). The further into the future the projection, the more this uncertainty increases (IPCC, 2022), because: (i) many variables interact in determining climate impacts; (ii) we can (and must) reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the worst impacts, and any effect of those actions is also uncertain.
The higher levels of water and sanitation services sought by SDG 6 are characterised by infrastructure assets with useful lives of 20-50 years or more (Hutton and Varughese, 2016). It is particularly important to characterise the vulnerability of such long-lived infrastructure to climate risks, especially since retro-fitting can be more expensive than designing for uncertainty upfront (Chester et al., 2020). I go into some of the climate risks to WASH services in this post.
Benefit-cost analysis (BCA) is the most commonly-used economic evaluation method for appraising WASH investments [a short introductory paragraph on BCA is below this post]*. In appraisal of interventions for adaptation or resilience, “no regrets” interventions are those which generate net benefits under all future climate/impact scenarios (Heltberg et al., 2009). A more achievable principle, endorsed by the IPCC (2012), may be aiming at least for “low”-regrets interventions. These are interventions which generate net benefits under a range of the most plausible scenarios. However, they also account for the risk that we might “regret” additional investment in adaptation/resilience if climate impacts are not as bad as expected. No-regrets options would be first choice, and often they will be available. However, low-regrets options may be important if adaptation/resilience increases costs substantially in relation to benefits in a “no climate change” scenario.
Low-regrets thinking has been applied in identifying opportunities for short/medium-term climate risk reduction within development interventions (Conway and Schipper, 2011). Identifying low-regrets options can also help reduce the risk of maladaptation (Barnett and O’Neill, 2010). This line of thinking can be applied whether what is being evaluated is a whole new investment in WASH services, or options for adapting/upgrading existing WASH services.
A few years ago, I was part of a three-country study looking at risk assessment and economic appraisal for adaptation to climate change in WASH (Oates et al., 2014). In making the economic arguments, we used a diagram which I’ve simplified here (Figure 1), and which I think Kit Nicholson came up with. The x-axis plots the severity of climate impacts (broadly defined) as an uncertain continuous variable. The y-axis plots the benefit-cost ratio (BCR) [see explanation at bottom]* of intervention options. The threshold where benefits equal costs on average over the time horizon (e.g. 20 years) is shown as “1”. In simple terms, we want to be above the green band, but we don’t know where we’ll be on the x-axis.
Plenty of WASH infrastructure constructed in recent decades might be climate risky (blue line A), i.e. in the absence of climate impacts it looks economically attractive, but as climate impacts worsen then BCR<1. Designing for the worst-case scenario may result in investments which are high regrets (orange line B), i.e. over-designed such that climate impacts have to be very severe before BCR>1. No-regrets options (both green lines C) are any interventions for which BCR>1 regardless the severity of climate impacts. Low-regrets options (yellow line D) may have BCR slightly below 1 when climate impacts are small, but gradually appear more attractive as climate impacts worsen. Low-regrets options need not necessarily have BCR<1 in the case of “no climate change”, but at least they would need to have lower BCR in that scenario than an option without investment in adaptation/resilience. While BCAs often present decisions as “doing something” versus “doing nothing”, this framework aims to account for the fact that in the real world there are usually multiple options under consideration.
A simplified WASH example can help illustrate. A team is planning a piped water supply with a treatment plant fed by a river intake, and the risk is identified that turbulent flows resulting from an extreme weather event may damage the intake. A “climate-risky” option might be to design the intake to withstand a flood of a given height with a 25-year return period, which is fairly likely to be exceeded within the useful life of the infrastructure. A “high-regrets” option might be to design for a 200-year return period, which would be more expensive, but increasingly worth doing as the probability of climate change-induced floods increases (Figure 1). A low-regrets option might be somewhere in-between. The reality is more complex than this, and there are many specific options within this scenario, related to, e.g. overflows, intake design, floating booms, early warning systems, etc. (Howard and Bartram, 2010).
There are some qualifications to make regarding this way of framing adaptation options. First, this framework does not make value judgements, e.g. high-regrets options are not necessarily a bad idea. However, since all investments have an opportunity cost (i.e. resources are scarce), high-regrets options may be less desirable from an equity perspective, because more people in a given year could be provided with WASH services under a low-regrets option. Second, while I often refer to these interventions as “adaptation options”, many might comprise what we should be doing anyway given existing climate variability, and the need to be resilient to risks other than the climate.
Third, many non-climate parameters in BCAs are also uncertain (e.g. costs, health effects, uptake, maintenance etc.), but this framework puts the focus on uncertainty about climate impacts. Bands incorporating uncertainty of many other parameters may therefore be more appropriate than lines. The low-regrets option from Figure 1 could be assessed in a probabilistic sensitivity analysis (PSA) per climate scenario. Such a PSA would posit plausible probability distributions for key parameters (Briggs, 2000), then run a Monte Carlo simulation with (say) 1,000 iterations. An uncertainty interval could then be posited by graphing the range of the middle 95% of iterations within a band, such as in Figure 2. This line of thinking is the main thing that is new in this post, as compared to the 2014 work (Oates et al., 2014).
Fourth, one challenge in undertaking such analyses is that, due to “deep uncertainty” in the context of climate change, it is hard to ascribe probabilities to many key variables (Hallegatte et al., 2012). Nonetheless, a Bayesian approach to uncertainty requires that the analyst makes their best estimate at the shapes of probability distributions (Briggs, 1999). Simply leaving variables out of the analysis, or not doing a PSA at all, is the same as assuming they are known with certainty. Assuming a uniform distribution for a given parameter only makes sense if the aim is to explore possible heterogeneity across settings, rather than estimating a realistic mean and uncertainty interval to inform a specific decision in a given setting. Expert opinion, tested in scenario analysis alongside the PSA, is therefore likely to play an important role. Fifth, in the real world, the “severity of climate impacts” is not a single continuous variable as in Figures 1 and 2. The IPCC provides multiple projections, and practically it would make sense to undertake scenario analysis using those.
In conclusion, I suggest that appraisal of investments in WASH infrastructure adaptation or resilience can be informed by a “regrets” perspective focused on climate uncertainty (Figure 1), but also taking account of uncertainty of non-climate parameters (Figure 2). Low-regrets options are those which generate net economic benefits under a range of the most plausible scenarios of climate impact severity.
*BCA combines all the consequences of an intervention (e.g. saved time, reduced disease, quality of life gained) and places a monetary (e.g. US$) value on them. These monetised benefits are then compared to the costs of an intervention over time, with discounting. Metrics for comparing options include the net present value (=benefits–costs) or the benefit-cost ratio (=benefits/costs). The benefit-cost ratio (BCR) is often communicated in terms of US$ X economic returns on US$ 1 invested. If the BCR is greater than 1 (the clearing rate or threshold) then the intervention has net benefits, and if less than 1 it does not. Benefit-cost ratios of different intervention options can be compared to assess their relative efficiency, although other factors should be taken into consideration (equity, feasibility, relative size of net benefits, etc.)
This is the second in a new monthly series of articles, named “Letter from…”, written by WSUP’s teams in the main countries where we operate (Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, and Madagascar). In the first week of the month, one of those teams will have an article on the WSUP’s website about life in their communities. Our second Letter comes from Ghana and focuses on the importance of the Ashanti Region for the country.
By Frank Romeo Kettey, Country Manager, in Kumasi
The Kingdom ruled for centuries until it joined an independent Ghana in 1957, as the Ashanti Region. The region thus retained the rich and culture of the Ashanti kingdom, which includes a 42-day month calendar that helps to mark special traditional days. The Ashantis have a unique way of bidding farewell to the dead, through celebrations that can last for days. Ashanti arts are mostly represented in the adinkra symbols which a many different symbols with distinct meanings.
With a population of about 5.4 million, or about 18% of Ghana’s 30 million people, the Ashanti Region is also urbanising rapidly: 61% of its residents now live in urban areas, against a national average of 56%. Whilst rural urban drift has characterised urbanisation in Ghana for decades, an evolving trend is rural communities metamorphosing into small towns, creating new small urban areas. Rural services are no longer adequate in these communities, and there is a requirement for larger, more formalized systems and services.
The pace of urbanisation has thus outstripped development planning and investment, creating enormous pressure on infrastructure, social support systems, and availability of urban services, including water sanitation and hygiene, especially for low-income communities and the vulnerable.
Much needed pipelines
Just like other regions of Ghana, access to basic water and sanitation is challenging in the Ashanti Region. Only 29% of the population has access to basic sanitation, with water coverage faring better at 95.6%, albeit mainly through public standpipes. Less than 27% of the people have access to safely managed water on their premises, with access available whenever needed and without any harmful contaminants.
In order to support efforts to address the challenge of poor WASH services in this rapidly urbanising part of the country, WSUP has been operating in the Ashanti Region since it started its work in Ghana, in 2010, delivering sustainable impacts in 25 out of its 43 municipalities. Since then, WSUP has worked in partnership with municipalities, utilities, the private sector, and local community actors to drive improvement in water, sanitation, and hygiene access, while strengthening capacities to sustain those WASH services.
Through these partnerships, WSUP has successfully supported extension of water pipelines by the local urban utility to low-income communities in the region’s capital, Kumasi. This meant supporting communities with 75 public standpipes, household connections, and 200 cubic metres of overhead water storage unit, building the capacity of local communities and water vendors to support sustainable services.
WSUP also works with the utility and small community service providers to adopt and operationalise delegated management model in some communities to support the utility to reach underserved and low-income customers.
Similarly, WSUP has worked across 10 cocoa growing small towns with water and sanitation infrastructure. This has included provision of mechanised boreholes, transmission and distribution lines, standpipes with multiple taps, household connections and 20 cubic metres of overhead water storage units for each of the communities. We have also worked with residents to trigger demand and construct household toilets in locations where open defecation was rife.
We have further worked to engage municipalities in the region to support sanitation enterprises and artisans, in order to improve access to household toilets. WSUP’s work also involves developing markets for onsite sanitation and building the capacity of enterprises in technical specification of toilet systems, basic business management, customer relations, marketing, while connecting them to effective supply chains.
Education and empowerment
Our work in the region has also included supporting schools and municipal education officers to improve WASH, with the provision of new facilities (including menstrual changing rooms for girls) and setting up hygiene clubs in 10 basic schools in the region.
At the outset of Covid-19, WSUP worked with 9 municipalities in the region to build the community resilience to Covid-19. In collaboration with the Ghana Health Service, National Commission for Civic Education, municipal authorities and community-based organisations, we effectively disseminated Covid-19 prevention messaging and provided much needed PPEs while further building institutional capacity within the municipalities to respond to health and WASH emergencies.
WSUP’s work has helped public and private service providers to respond to WASH challenges occasioned by rapid urbanisation. We work in the major city and urban communities in the region, but also support urbanising cocoa growing small towns in the region with improved WASH infrastructure, supporting municipalities and communities to evolve effective management models for sustainable services, building capacity and creating enabling environment for private sector participation in WASH service delivery in these locations whiles improving regulation.
All those efforts have one major thing in common: supporting the Ashanti Region in its major challenge of dealing with a rapid and broad transformation of its communities.
The Ashanti Region will continue to be an important region for WSUP in Ghana. Our 2025 strategic plan seeks to consolidate the impacts made in the region by expanding our efforts into new municipalities, focusing on empowering service providers and community actors. This aims at ensuring sustainable access to safely managed water, access to household toilets, and stronger systems across municipalities for effective regulation. Being the heart of Ghana, the Ashanti Region needs increasing strength, so the whole country can benefit from its growing health, resilience, and progress.
Top image: Community in Asokore Mampong, part of the city of Kumasi
The World Bank’s new report – Seeing the Invisible: A Strategic Report on Groundwater Quality – describes why, and how, groundwater quality is vital to human health, agriculture, industry and … Read more
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IRC has produced a video that highlights the progress made so far in the implementation of Tenkodogo's WASH strategic plan, with support from the LDSC Foundation.
Drinking water, hygiene and sanitation services are equally important. The Tenkodogo municipal authorities decided to develop a Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Master Plan to make drinking water, toilets and good hygiene practices available to all the inhabitants of the district. Even before the plan was finalised, IRC and the Latter-day Saints Charities (LDSC) Foundation decided to support the commune in relieving the urgent needs of the population in this area.
This has led to several extraordinary results. In urban areas, 580 families now have drinking water in their homes through a private ONEA connection. In rural areas, a feasibility study was carried out in 10 villages to upgrade the current hand pumps, which are unable to meet their water needs, to more solid and efficient installations that can serve 2,614 people as soon as they are completed. Through the "Clean Hands, Good Health" campaign, 7,684 pupils now regularly wash their hands with soap and water and are protected from diseases related to dirty hands. Local radio stations were also used to reach as many people as possible. Local authorities and staff were trained to increase their ownership of the process.
As images are a very effective way to show the evidence, a 6-minute video was produced to show the progress. The film shows the main changes observed with lively testimonies from beneficiaries and authorities. Fatimata Oubda describes her satisfaction and relief at being able to get clean water from a tap at home. The chore of fetching water is now a distant memory and she also has more time to take care of her family. Prosper Zombra, principal of Gogare A school in Tenkodogo and Florentine Kouti, teacher at Tenkodogo Centre A school proudly describe the remarkable changes in their students' hand hygiene behaviour. Hamadou Dicko, Secretary General of Tenkodogo, mentioned the good collaboration with all the actors, which has been a considerable asset for obtaining results.
The efforts are considerable and already constitute a success, but there is still a long way to go. 420 vulnerable households are still not connected to the private ONEA network in the urban area, 22614 inhabitants of surrounding villages urgently need drinking water and 168 schools with 29594 pupils are still to be reached in terms of hand hygiene awareness.
The populations' dearest wish is that the actions be extended to all levels for an effective scaling up. According to Albert Koumsongo, Regional Director of Water and Sanitation for the Centre East, this programme must be extended to all the communes of Burkina Faso to boost the access rate.
IRC a produit un film de capitalisation qui souligne les progrès réalisés jusqu'à présent dans la mise en œuvre anticipée du plan stratégique WASH de Tenkodogo, avec le soutien de la fondation LDSC
Les services d’eau potable, d’hygiène et d’assainissement sont aussi primordiaux l’un que l’autre. Les autorités communales de Tenkodogo avaient décidé d’élaborer un plan stratégique Eau – Hygiène et Assainissement afin de mettre l’eau potable, les toilettes et les bonnes pratiques d’hygiène à la disposition de tous les habitants de la commune. Avant même la finalisation de ce plan, IRC et la fondation Latter-day Saints Charities (LDSC) ont décidé d’appuyer la commune à soulager les besoins urgents des populations en la matière. Cela a permis d’engranger plusieurs résultats extraordinaires. En milieu urbain, 580 familles ont maintenant l’eau potable sur place à leur domicile à travers un branchement privé ONEA. Quant au milieu rural, une étude de faisabilité a été réalisée dans 10 villages pour la mise à niveau des pompes manuelles actuelles incapables de répondre à leurs besoins en eau en des installations plus solides et plus efficaces pouvant desservir 22614 personnes dès leur réalisation.
A travers la campagne « Mains propres, bonne santé », 7684 élèves se lavent désormais régulièrement les mains à l’eau et au savon et sont protégés contre les maladies liées aux mains sales. Les radios locales ont également été utilisées pour étendre la campagne à l’échelle de toute la population et toucher le plus de personnes que possibles. Les autorités et le personnel communal ont été formés pour leur meilleure appropriation du processus.
L’image étant un moyen très efficace pour montrer les évidences, un film de 6 minutes a été produit pour rendre plus visible les progrès réalisés sur le terrain. Le film montre les principaux changements observés avec des témoignages vivants des bénéficiaires et des autorités. Fatimata Oubda nous décrit sa satisfaction et son soulagement de pouvoir obtenir de l'eau potable à partir d'un robinet chez elle à la maison. La corvée d’eau est désormais un lointain souvenir et elle dispose également de plus de temps pour s’occuper de sa famille.
Prosper Zombra, directeur de l'école Gogare A à Tenkodogo et Florentine Kouti, enseignante à l’école Tenkodogo centre A décrivent fièrement les changements remarquables dans le comportement de leurs élèves en matière d'hygiène des mains. Le secrétaire général de la mairie de Tenkodogo, Hamadou Dicko a rappelé la bonne collaboration avec l’ensemble des acteurs, qui a été un atout considérable pour l'obtention de résultats.
Les efforts sont considérables et constituent déjà une réussite, mais il y a encore du chemin à parcourir. 420 ménages vulnérables ne sont toujours pas raccordés au réseau privé ONEA dans la zone urbaine, 22614 habitants des villages rattachés ont urgemment d’eau potable et 168 écoles avec 29594 élèves restent à atteindre en matière de sensibilisation à l'hygiène des mains.
Le vœu le plus cher des populations, est que les actions soient étendues à tous les niveaux pour un passage à l’échelle efficace. Selon le directeur régional de l’eau et assainissement du Centre Est, Albert Koumsongo, ce programme doit être étendu à l’ensemble des communes du Burkina Faso pour booster le taux d’accès.
A new publication, “Guidelines for the calculation of the agriculture water use efficiency for global reporting”, by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is now available. … Read more
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A forthcoming webinar on the progress of implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in the Arab region will be held on 26 July 2022 at 12.00-13.00 (GMT+3). The event … Read more
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