Since 1976, the Circuit Rider Program has worked in the United States to successfully address the needs of small WASH system operators and administrators, which are similar to those faced by developing nations. The Circuit Rider program has a proven track record of increasing the institutional capacity of service providers by increasing the professional expertise of water operators, managers and board members. A small group of qualified WASH technicians rotate through a circuit of communities providing advice and training to local operators on issues of sustainability, governance, treatment technologies, operations, and maintenance. Over time, the Circuit Riders increase the capacity of communities they serve to assume effective responsibility for their WASH systems.
The Circuit Rider Program focuses on building the institutional capabilities of local water boards and rural WASH committees to run their own systems by providing on-site support and training in three key areas:
- Technical: Repairing water and sanitation systems and providing instruction on disinfection procedures, source water protection, and water quality sampling and monitoring protocols, as well as advice on upgrading and expanding water services. Technical training is designed for local water system operators, such as plumbers and operation and maintenance technicians.
- Administration: Circuit Riders improve WASH governance, tariff setting and collection, basic accounting and bookkeeping, and accountability to users. Administrative training is designed for water board treasurers and other scheme managers.
- Community: There is a need to promote safe water handling and best hygiene and sanitation practices. Training is designed to build the capabilities of water board committee members to do WASH promotion activities among water users.
In addition to these three areas other training covers the principles of integrated water resources and watershed management.
The return on investment for Circuit Rider programs is clear:
- Cost to build water systems: on average, $85 USD per household
- Cost of failed services: on average, approximately 50% of investments have been wasted on failed water points.
- Cost of poor services: on average, 11% of investments are wasted on water systems that provide bad services.
- Cost of circuit rider program: less than $1 USD per household per year
Studies also indicate Circuit Rider programs significantly improve the reliability and quality of services. Overall, WASH interventions, assuming they lead to lasting services, have been shown to produce economic benefits ranging from USD $5 to USD $46 per USD $1 invested.
CIWAS has developed three Circuit Rider Programs to date in Ghana, Chile and Honduras.