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Factors influencing sustainability of rural water supply and sanitation services in Latin America

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Over the past 20 years, significant investment has been made in Latin America in water and sanitation services in rural communities. In spite of this effort, many of the systems reach the end of their operational life or diminish their operability well before their planned life. For this reason, new investments are needed in areas already developed, thereby neglecting funding to other locations lacking water and sanitation.

With close to 40% of the population of Latin America living in rural communities, the lack of sustainability of rural water and sanitation infrastructure becomes an obstacle to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Results from several studies on post-project sustainability indicate that factors influencing sustainability are less related to technical issues than originally expected. Among the factors that lead to success (or failure) of rural water and sanitation systems are hygiene habits in the household, community management, infrastructure vulnerability to natural disasters, water tariffs, technical support outside the community, women participation, reliable water resources, selection and implementation of technical solutions, and level of satisfaction among users.

A System Dynamics approach was used to identify leverage points (key factors) in this complex and interactive system. A solid understanding of those factors on which to concentrate the effort is crucial for the implementation of sustainable services.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-01-01

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