Water Supply and Sanitation Projects in Selected Developing Member Countries

Evaluation Document | 31 December 2002
This study aims to evaluate the impacts of ADB lending and technical assistance for water supply and sanitation (WSS) projects.

Completed in 2002, this evaluation study analyzes the effect of ADB lending and technical assistance for water supply and sanitation projects. The study assesses how improved water availability has affected various user groups, particularly the poor, and discusses the results and effect of selected projects in the context of physical, poverty, health and environmental, social and gender, financial and economic, and institutional and policy dimensions.

Based on the evidence from case studies in the People's Republic of China (PRC), Malaysia, Philippines, and Sri Lanka, the study examines the key results and identifies lessons and good practices for addressing common problems in designing, implementing, and operating and maintaining water supply and sanitation projects in the future.

Summary of findings

  • All selected projects significantly increased water consumption by households.
  • In reviewed projects where sanitation was given less attention, their results in this regard were mixed and limited. In contrast, the subprojects implemented by nongovernment organizations (NGOs) in Pune, India are outstanding examples of providing sustainable sanitation services through community mobilization, a distinct factor for their success.
  • Improving communities' health and living conditions by reducing the incidence of water related diseases is a common goal of water supply and sanitation. Important characteristics of improved water services are quantity, accessibility, reliability, and quality. The quantity, accessibility, and reliability were found satisfactory to most users in the projects reviewed, while some beneficiaries in Malaysia and the Philippines perceived problems with quality, especially during the wet season.
  • ADB's approach of involving prospective beneficiaries in planning, implementation, operation, maintenance and cofinancing of small town and rural water supply and sanitation projects was not yet applied in the reviewed projects. Therefore, customer involvement was much lower than in later projects implemented with this approach.
  • Households connected to a piped system were paying, on average, 1%-2% of their household income for water, and their willingness to pay was well established. However, the willingness to pay of households in villages still using hand pumps and standpipes differed in each country. While in some projects in the Philippines less then 50% of the households were willing to pay to connect to a piped supply, people in the PRC accepted tariff increases and affordability did not appear to be an issue.
  • None of the water utilities reviewed had achieved full cost recovery at the time of the study; however two water supply companies in the PRC were most likely to achieve full cost recovery in the near future.

Lessons identified

  • Success stories from the PRC indicate that components and mechanisms that help water utilities meet cost recovery targets increase the likelihood of long-term sustainability.
  • It is not enough to simply provide adequate quantities of good quality water. India's model, where sanitation subprojects were implemented by NGOs, shows that sanitation, hygiene, and health promotion programs are needed and complementary, and these represent a distinct factor for success.
  • Success stories in PRC and Malaysia show that it is possible to reduce non-revenue water to low levels. Leak detection is one of the available options, and a caretaker approach coupled with benchmarking of water utilities performance has proven useful.
  • Distribution of drinking water has shown to be more efficient when distributed in bottles, either by the water supply company or by some arrangement of public and private sector partnerships.
  • Demand side management has proven to be effective in the PRC where political support and awareness campaigns are aimed at conservation by users.
  • Success stories from Malaysia and the Philippines show that one committed person or champion can lead the community participation process.
  • Projects implemented in India indicate that socially-oriented water supply and sanitation projects should be implemented expeditiously, since implementation delays erode customers' ownership of the project.


  • Provide coverage for drinking water in all Asian cities, including distribution in bottles, and initiate health and hygiene awareness education in relation to safe drinking water.
  • Protect alternative water resources through education and revival of traditional practices and promote cost-effective water conservation.
  • Reduce non-revenue water by using a caretaker approach, promoting tariff reform, encouraging demand-side management for sustainable 24-hour piped water supply, and launching initiatives for financially sustainable water supply companies.
  • Encourage community-oriented sanitation.
  • Integrate water resources management, with participation by beneficiaries, and management at the river basin level.