Developing countries struggle to provide adequate WASH services and sustain these services over time, in particular in rural communities, due to insufficient technical capacity, aging or failing infrastructure, and a lack of funds for daily operations.  The Circuit Rider Program, hosted by CIWAS, is a model proven to increase the long-term sustainability of these small, rural water systems.  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 pilot Circuit Rider Programs to date in Ghana, Chile and Honduras. 

ghana flag mapGhana: In partnership with the Ghana Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), CIWAS is running a pilot program in the East Gonja District of Northern Ghana. DRI conducted action research on the viability of adapting the Circuit Rider model in Ghana and a landscape of the WASH sector in Ghana was also completed, which describes the community model of providing WASH services to rural Ghana and why the Circuit Rider model is a good fit.  CIWAS has conducted an initial Circuit Rider training for the East Gonja District Assembly staff, East Gonja Area Council representatives, and the Area Mechanics that service the water systems in the district that introduced the Circuit Rider Methodology and other important topics such as small business basics, life cycle costing, and WASH and Health.

HondurasHonduras: CIWAS has successfully secured funding for a post-construction evaluation project of Rotary-funded WASH systems in Honduras (hyperlink to one-pager on Honduras project). In partnership with WASRAG, the Rotary Club of Reno, and the Honduran Association of Water System Administrators (AHJASA), and with funding from Rotary Districts in Honduras, this project, which will assess the of functionality of Rotary-sponsored water systems across Honduras. To date Rotary has built over 90 water systems in Honduras, representing a total investment of approximately $5 million USD but the functionality of these systems post-construction remains largely unknown. CIWAS has developed an assessment tool and pilot project for 40 systems to help determine the current functionality rates. Project implementation will commence this spring. Following the evaluation DRI will provide recommendations to local water and Rotary Clubs that will help increase water system sustainability.

chileChile: CIWAS is collaborating with TOHL and the municipality of Río Hurtado in Chile to establish a post-construction support program for existing small water systems in the municipality.  CIWAS is providing the municipality of Rio Hurtado and TOHL with guidance and technical assistance in designing a Circuit Rider program specifically tailored to Río Hurtado’s needs and as well a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework to assess impact. Meetings have also been held at La Serena University with Cazalac - the Regional Water Center for Arid and Semi-Arid Zones in Latin America and the Caribbean- to discuss the potential of participating in CIWAS’ WASH Capacity Building Program.