Impact of Cost-Shared Water Supply Services on Household Welfare in Small Towns: Ex-Post Impact Evaluation of a Project in Nepal
Impact evaluations go beyond the standard project assessment criteria and add value by explicitly estimating the development impact of interventions on the intended beneficiaries. This impact evaluation aims to add to the thin evidence on the impact of cost-shared, community-based water supply and sanitation interventions in small towns. It also aims to fill broader knowledge and evidence gaps on the institutional and non-health impacts of water supply and sanitation interventions. This evaluation found that in the small Nepalese towns supported by an Asian Development Bank project, a cost-shared, community-based approach to the provision of water supply and sanitation services infrastructure, together with training, awareness campaigns, and institutional development, improved the operational and financial sustainability of water services providers, compared to providers in towns that did not receive this support.
Households in project towns had access to greater quantity, better quality, and greater continuity of water supply than households in towns that did not receive this package of investments. In project towns, this translated to improved health and better non-health outcomes like education and an increase in women’s leisure time from the reduced burden of water collection. Evidence also suggests that the project contributed to increases in wage income and household consumption expenditure; while there are plausible explanations that these impacts can be related to the project, the evidence must be interpreted cautiously since the chain of causation could not be established conclusively. The model could have been made more inclusive through targeted support for the poor and vulnerable sections of the community.
Recommendations are to (i) further test the model that was the object of this evaluation (cost-shared, community-managed water supply systems with institutional support) in other countries with a similar context to see whether it can be replicated and scaled-up; (ii) devote more attention to understanding the geohydrological setting when preparing water supply systems in multiple small towns, so that variability in quality and quantity of the source water can be better accommodated in project design; and (iii) strategically plan and implement impact evaluations for future programs or projects that have potential for replication and scale-up as
identified by sector and thematic groups.