To help meet the Project Aims and Objectives, the research approach reflects the need to understand both the physical/technical realities of borehole functioning and the human behaviours and arrangements that shape this. We draw on a range of methods from natural, social sciences and engineering, and will use an interdisciplinary approach to examine how these areas inter-relate and contribute to water supply failure in different conditions. By using this approach, the consortium has the potential to lead to a step change in understanding for water point functionality.

The research will be undertaken in three DFID priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have struggled for decades with service sustainability: Uganda, Malawi and Ethiopia. 2

Within each of the three countries the project will undertake both extensive research (mapping patterns and trends across populations and large areas) and intensive research (addressing ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions in context specific locations). The research will incorporate:

  • Extensive secondary data collection: Synthesising previous functionality studies, and using national databases, map existing national and regional data of each of the countries demographics, hydrogeological conditions, existing water point failure rates, poverty and livelihoods data and any economic/institutional dynamics at national and regional level.
  • Extensive primary data collection (Survey 1): Carried out in the three case study countries, to collate data on: waterpoint functionality, and waterpoint committee functionality. This will involve rapid surveying techniques in both conversational interviews with communities, and a series of field tests to assess physical functionality of water points in terms of water quality and quantity.
  • Intensive primary data collection (Survey 2): More detailed physical and social science investigations will be carried out in a carefully chosen subsample of water points in each country. This in-depth work will investigate the multiple inter-related reasons for success and failure at individual sources and underlying contributing conditions.
  • Targeted longitudinal studies:  Investigate trajectories of change and understand the place of borehole functionality in livelihoods, and the outcomes for poor or marginalized people.
  • Interdisciplinary analysis: Several approaches will be used to integrate the different research disciplines and methods. Joint field research teams will foster true interdisciplinary working from data collation to interpretation. We will also trial using a system dynamics approach to examine the interplay between economic social, technical and institutional factors involved in the sustained performance of rural water supply schemes.
  • Future trend modelling: will be used to test the impact of several possible future pathways and interventions on individual water sources functionality. Critically we will use statistical techniques to combine the cumulative impact on future estimates of coverage, relevant to the SDGs.