At charity: water, we know that building a water project is the easy part. Keeping clean water flowing over time, however, is a complex business that requires money, training and innovative thinking. It's something we've always been committed to.
In some cases, up to 30% of the cost of a charity: water project goes into training and educating the community about how to take care of the well after we're gone. At first, our field partners start with ownership.
We believe if the community feels a strong sense of ownership, they'll see their well as a critical asset to everyone and take good care of it collectively. Another important piece is the formation of a Water Committee. A 6-8 person team is selected from the village (often it's at least half women) and trained to make minor repairs. Often, our partners will leave spare parts for the village in case the well breaks -- because sooner or later, something always breaks. If the Water Committee is in place and active, that will keep water flowing most of the time. But sometimes a problem arises that's too big for even the best Water Committee members to tackle. Communities could wait months for repairs while they go back to drinking dirty water.
Just think of your car. If you get a flat tire, you might fix it yourself. If you need an oil change, you might know the drill. But if your engine starts smoking, it's time to call the mechanic.
It's the same with wells. That's why we believe in funding maintenance programs and employing skilled mechanics to handle larger breakdowns.
In Central African Republic, a team of mobile mechanics visits each of our wells three times a year, doing tune-ups and necessary repairs to keep water flowing. Communities are asked to pay $8 a month to help support the repair costs, but not all can afford the payment. Instead of cash, repair teams sometimes receive goats or chickens as communities show their commitment.
In Malawi, in addition to training Water Committees, our partners trained a local mechanic who's in charge of making sure the water keeps flowing at multiple water points. Communities in his territory call him when their pumps break and he repairs them in exchange for cash or food.
Last year in India, we tried an entirely new approach: investing in entrepreneurs from the ground up, helping them grow their small businesses to repair broken wells.