Converting a water supply that previously have been based on individual wells or fetching water in rivers and streams to a water supply system based on pipes distributing water from a safe source holds many challenges.
The challenges fall in two areas: A technical part and an organizational/financial part. Or, in other words: How do we construct the system? And who is going to run it and pay for it?
The technical part is relatively easy to handle. Depending on the local topography and the available water sources, it can be determined whether a gravitation system will suffice or it is necessary with boreholes and pumps. Calculation of water demand, pipe dimensions, pipe network layout, valves etc. can be handled with common practice methods. There may be a need for local capacity building regarding the handling of repairs and maintenance.
And this leads to the somewhat bigger challenge: Organization and economy. Who decides when maintenance is needed and who is going to pay for it? The suggestion here is clear: The consumers themselves will have to pay.
The “Danish Model” in water supply is that every family that wants the benefit of the water supply will have to become a “member” or a part owner of the supply. The users pay for the water they use. The users appoint a board that becomes responsible for running the supply (i.e. maintaining, repairing, budgeting, planning, and billing). The board members are not allowed to make a profit from their membership and all income must be used for maintenance and improvement of the water supply. If the users are unhappy with work that the board is doing, they can elect a new board on the next general assembly.
This is how waterworks in the rural (and urban) areas of Denmark has been run for the past 100 years, ever since they were established. The number of conflicts have been surprisingly low. This organization has meant that the water supply becomes a community responsibility and it has thereby contributed to increase the local cohesion.
What barriers must be expected, and what can be done to break them down? The “Danish Model” will be followed by a discussion of the possibility (or desirability) to test this model in Bhutan.
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