Community-managed Water Investments in Rural China: A Path for Financing WASHBetter access to safe drinking water and sanitation around the worl...Community-managed Water Investments in Rural China: A Path for Financing WASH
Better access to safe drinking water and sanitation around the world could prevent the deaths of 297,000 children aged under 5 years from diarrhea each year. Likewise, the risk of infection of other common infectious diseases including cholera, hepatitis A, typhoid, and most recently – the coronavirus, can be reduced by improving access to clean water and sanitation facilities.
Over a longer horizon, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) investments reduce healthcare cost, increase school attendance, and lift labor productivity. Although policymakers are almost universally aware of these benefits, WASH financing is notoriously difficult to get right. Today, water sector investments are still heavily reliant on public-sector funding or international aid in most developing countries, with a focus on funding large infrastructure projects instead of decentralized, smaller-scale solutions.
The billions spent over the past 50 years to meet the United Nations 2030 WASH goals (SGD 6) have improved water and sanitation infrastructure, but the World Bank estimates the world still needs to invest about 1.7 trillion dollars more. In rural China, where drinking water insecurity persists, some innovative projects are mobilizing domestic private-sector financing for community-run water infrastructure rather than relying on aid or traditional lending.
The Business Case for Community-operated Infrastructure
When MyH2O began to introduce drinking water solutions to rural Chinese villages in 2019, we experimented with two financing strategies. The first was bridging corporate and social philanthropy with communities most in need of water solutions. MyH2O has collaborated with the corporate social responsibility departments of multinational engineering companies as well as private philanthropic organizations to fund drinking water facilities in villages and public schools in poorer and drought-prone regions such as Gansu and Hebei.