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Statistics on Water Point Failures

This is an ongoing compilation of statistics that shows that poor functionality and failure rates for water systems are still high after decades of development. Poor service levels, which consider quantity, quality, accessibility, and reliability, are even worse, but these aren’t often measured. The cumulative cost of failed water systems in sub-Saharan Africa alone is estimated to be $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion (Chilton, 2014, Triple-S Briefing, 2009). Statistics are organized by region, then alphabetically by country, starting with the most recent statistic.

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  • Data for 126,251 water points across 37 countries that are being monitored with Akvo FLOW show that 20% are not functional, and 10% are functional but have problems (Akvo, 2015).
  • Sutton (2004) compiled data on water point non-functionality for several countries (see table below)


  • “It has become overwhelmingly clear from both research and field observations (Warford and Saunders, 1976; Elmendorf, 1978; Burton, 1979) that the main obstacle in the use and maintenance of improved water and sanitation systems is not the quality of technology, but the failure ‘in qualified human resources and in management and organization techniques, including a failure to capture community interest’ (Nieves, 1980). An appalling 35 to 50 percent of systems in developing countries become inoperable after five years” (Imboden, 1977; Warford and Saunders, 1976; White et al, 1972) (USAID, 1981).

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • A survey of 23 projects in six sub-Saharan countries found (European Court of Auditors, 2012):
    • Overall, equipment was installed as planned and was in working order. However, fewer than half of the projects examined delivered results meeting the beneficiaries’ needs.
    • While the projects examined were sustainable in technical terms, for a majority of projects, results and benefits will not continue to flow in the medium and long term unless non-tariff revenue is ensured; or because of institutional weaknesses (weak capacity by operators to run the equipment installed).
  • Only two out of three handpumps are working at any time (RWSN, 2010).
  • The table below shows estimates of handpump non-functionality for various countries (RWSN, 2009):AfricaWaterStatsTable1
  • Almost 40% of sub-Saharan handpumps are not working (Sutton, 2005).

Central African Republic

DR Congo

  • Out of 2,051 water points in three provinces – Bas Congo, Equateur and Kinshasa – non-functionality was highest in Bas Congo at 68%, 24% in Kinshasa and 14% in Equateur (see table below). In Bas Congo only 39% of functional water points provided safe drinking water while in Kinshasa it was just 32%  (SNV, 2013, SNV, 2014).



  • An evaluation of 21 community handpumps across Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR, and Tigray showed 43% were not functioning at the time of the visit. Of 13 springs developed with spring boxes, 15% were completely out of service and 69% had intermediate or high risk to the beneficiaries as classified by the World Health Organization sanitary inspection scorecard (TetraTech, 2015).
  • Across 7 ONEWASH project towns, only 44% of public taps were found to provide reliable services and only 30% were found to be well accessible and not crowded (Adank, M., Defere, E. & Butterworth, J.A., 2015).
  • A survey of 57 diverse water schemes showed 38.6% were non-functional on the day of the visit (Welle & Williams, 2014).
  • A survey was carried out with 160 household in 16 water supply systems constructed by different organizations. In Mecha Woreda, 20 of the 21 systems (95%) installed without community support were not functioning while only 12 of the 142 systems (8%) installed with community failed (Beyene, 2012).
  • 25.5% of more than 93,000 water schemes across the country were non-functional according to the National Water Inventory (Debela, 2013).
  • Of 91 water schemes in Farta and West Estie surveyed, 17.5% were not functioning and 10% were functioning with difficulties (Stawicki, 2012).
  • Non-functionality of rural water schemes in 10 regions ranges from 18% to 35%, with a national average of 20% (Calaw, Ludi, and Tucker, 2013).
  • Out of the 70 water supply schemes in Mirab Abaya Woreda, 30 (43%) were non-functional (Deneke & Abebe, 2008).
  • It has been estimated that 33% of rural water supply schemes are non-functional at any time (MoWR, 2007) (per Deneke & Abebe, 2008).
  • 60% of the Somali region’s birkado [cement-lined underground cisterns] are damaged and unused, calling into question the building of new birkado versus rehabilitating existing structures (Nassef & Belayhun, 2012).
  • A survey found that 29% of handpumps and 33% of mechanized boreholes in rural areas were not functioning because of maintenance problems (UNDP, 2006).


  • Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) data for water supply in rural areas and small towns to the sector in Ghana show that around 25%  of the water systems are non-functional and only around 10% are providing the service level people in Ghana are entitled to (IRC, 2015)
  • In a study evaluating the success of NGOs, 2 of 7 wells were non-functional (Alexander D. et al, 2015).
  • Of 898 wells surveyed, 20% were not operational at the time of the study (World Vision, 2014).
  • The Atebubu Water System, in the Brong Ahafo Region, served a group of eight urban communities with a total population of 32,000. The system was completely non-functional at the time of a visit—sand filters were overgrown with weeds, standpipes had been shut down, and the chlorinator appeared run down. Many residents now obtain water from boreholes installed by the district assembly or NGOs. However, at the time of a visit 40% were broken (Ampadu-Boakye & Hebert, 2014).
  • 21% of 1,509 water points were not functioning on the day of visit (Samani & Apoya, 2013).
  • In three districts (East Gonja, Akatsi, Sunyani West), more than 30% of the surveyed infrastructure was not functional, and as little as 2% was providing the basic level of service for which it was intended (Adank et al, 2012).
  • A study looked at 500 wells (lined and open holes) and found “the average life span of the open holes was just about 15 years, and none of them was functional after 40 years of construction and use” (Akudago J. A. et al, 2007).
  • By the late 1980s and early 1990s, 33% of the water supply systems had deteriorated greatly or completely broken down due to inadequate funding to carry out maintenance and rehabilitation (Ghana Water Company).


  • A Water Audit in Kitui County, Kenya found that of 48 piped water schemes, representing more than 2 million USD investment, 35% are not functional and 10% are partly functional (Goodall, 2016).
  • A survey of 512 water points in Central Kenya found non-functionality and downtime for various types of water infrastructure (see table below) (Goodall, Hope & Kitilu, 2016):

Goodall Kenya functionality table

  • Of 100 water systems assessed (built between 2006-2010), 75% are still in use. 45% are affected by minor technical issues, or even serious damages, although they have the potential to be remediated; 14% of the systems are non-functional (Welthungerlife, 2011).
  • 2010 pilot mapping showed that, of 1011 ‘improved’ water points (all source types), average rates of non-functionality were 28% (West Pokot), 32% (Kyuso), and 20% (Mbeere North) (SNV 2010).
  • Only 58% of rural water sources are functional (Kenya Ministry of Water & Irrigation. 2009. Sample Survey on Water Quality and Functionality of Water Systems mentioned here).
  • In western Kenya, nearly 50% of borehole wells dug in the 1980s, and subsequently maintained using a community-based maintenance model, had fallen into disrepair by 2000 (Miguel & Gugerty, 2004).



  • 40% of over 10,000 improved water points mapped nationally were failed or needed repair (Government of Liberia, 2014).
  • National mapping and monitoring showed that 18.2% of 4480 handpumps were non-functional (Foster T., 2013).
  • The failure rate for handpumps in Lofa County is 34%, but the failure rate for a particular project was 47%. “This situation forced the communities to use alternative water resources (rivers, backwaters, traditional wells) of poor quality” (Atte, 2012).
  • The first systematic sampling of water points and study of water quality in Monrovia found that 57% of the water points were contaminated by E. coli, which is an indicator of widespread fecal contamination. The health standard for E. coli is none present/detected. (Uhl et al, 2012).
    • 100% of the unprotected hand-dug wells sampled showed the presence of E. coli.
    • 75% of the kiosks sampled showed the presence of E. coli.
    • 67% of the LWSC city water taps sampled showed the presence of E. coli.
    • 52% of the protected hand-dug open wells fitted with hand pumps showed the presence of E. coli.
    • 44% of the drilled wells fitted with hand pumps showed the presence of E. coli.

Liberia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania

  • The functionality of water points decreases over time (Tincani et al, 2015). See figure below:

Failure Stats _ Africa


  • Post implementation surveys showed water point non-functionality rates of 20-23% (WaterAid, 2015).
  • Out of 186 communities visited, there is a very high rate of system breakdown: nearly half of all systems broke down in the previous year, and a third of them were reported not to have been fixed satisfactorily. So, by implication, one sixth (16.6%) of all rural water systems breaks down and are not properly fixed, per year.  While half of all systems were reported to be functional for the most recent year, a tenth didn’t work at all; systems worked for an average of nine months per year. The survey sample was of systems that had been built or rehabilitated within the last five years. So, at any one time, around a quarter of the rural population of Madagascar has no safe water (UNICEF & WaterAid, 2014).
  • Non-functionality of existing water points was 10% for boreholes according to a 2009 RWSN report; but 80% according to a 2010 baseline survey of the USAID-funded RANO HamPivoatra Project. Actual non-functionality is likely between 50-60% nationally (Annis, 2013).


  • 15% of improved water sources are not functional, a number that has remained stagnant for 5 years (Kiwanuka & Sentwumbe, 2015).
  • Post implementation surveys showed water point non-functionality rates of 20-23% (WaterAid, 2015).
  • A study in four districts of Malawi found that both technical and financial performance under community management is weak. Maintenance is rarely done, repairs are slow and sub-standard, and user committees are unable to collect and save funds: Average savings are just 2% of expected levels. Despite these failures, community  management has ‘worked’ for the state (and donors) as a means of offloading responsibility for public service provision (Chowns, 2015).
  • In a 2013 study of 338 elephant pumps, 22% were not functional, and 32% of water samples from these pumps did not meet the Government groundwater standard for E. coli (Holm et al, 2015).
  • In a service level survey of 48 villages, 66% of MALDA handpumps installed one year ago failed both pump tests and were therefore recorded as being non-functional (Shaw & Manda, 2013).
  • A survey of the water schemes in the early 1980s showed over 90% of taps were functioning, but in 2011 only 42.4% were functioning: in the Northern Region, 74% of 2305 taps from gravity-fed piped water schemes were non-functional; in the Central (1,465 taps) and Southern Regions (10,215 taps), 55% of the taps from piped water systems were non-functional (Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, Water and Development, 2011).
  • 79% of rural boreholes and 49% of gravity fed schemes were not functioning, while peri urban residents suffer from irregular supply (DeGabriele, 2009).
  • 31% of the improved rural water points are not functioning (Bauman & Danert, 2008).
  • 49% of all gravity flow system taps were not working (National Water Point Mapping, reported in Bauman & Danert, 2008).
  • Access to safe water was estimated to be 75% in 2007, but low functionality of 31% for handpumps and 49% for gravity-fed schemes reduces the effective coverage to 55% (Baumann & Danert, 2008).
  • A baseline water point survey in Mangochi District showed that of the 340 recorded old hand pumps, 46% were broken down and 28% of all boreholes drilled since 1998 had failed (Anscombe, 2004).
  • In 1997, a survey almost 900 tapstands found that more than 50% of them were not supplying water. This indicated a significant decline since the early 1980s when surveys showed fewer than 10% not functioning (Kleemeier, 2000).


  • In four municipalities, non-functionality of “modern” water points ranged from 14% to 41% (Jones, 2013).


  • The percent of non-functioning water points remains around 20% (see figure below) (Jansz, 2011).
Source: Janusz, 2011

Source: Janusz, 2011



  • In a baseline survey of 126 water points in the District of Kicukiro, 50% of the water points had been down for more than 1 day in the last month, and 55% of the communities reported that they had no spare parts on hand for the water system (Water for People, 2011).
  • An estimated one-third of the rural water infrastructure requires urgent rehabilitation (UNDP, 2006).

Sierra Leone

  • National mapping and monitoring showed that 17.9% of 5488 handpumps were non-functional (Foster, T., 2013).
  • A comprehensive water point mapping exercise (28,845 water points) in 2012 showed the rate of damage of public water points is high and rises rapidly with point age: 14.4% were functional but partly damaged, and 17.8% are broken down. Furthermore, up to 40% of protected in-use points providing insufficient water during the dry season (Sierra Leone Ministry of Water Resources, 2012).
  • A survey of all existing water access points across three districts (2,859 structures) found only 30% of the structures in place were found to be capable of delivering access to safe water throughout the year (Fondation Pro Victimis).

South Africa

  • Of 12 villages with adequate quantitative water availability, at the time of an assessment five of the twelve did not have water as a result of pump failure in two villages, lack of money for buying diesel for the pump in two villages, and illness of the responsible pump operator in one village. (Rietveld, 2009).
  • In a sample of water and sanitation projects in all nine provinces, more than 97% of the 1067 completed household water projects did not comply with policy requirements, norms and standards. The compliance level for 517 completed household sanitation projects was 0% (CSIR, 2007).
  • An assessment showed that 71% of 7 rural groundwater schemes were non-functional (Mackintosh G. et al, 2003).
  • At any time, approximately 50% of handpumps are not working (Hazelton, 2000).

South Sudan

  • 400 of 578 boreholes built between 2006 and 2012 under the Basic Services Fund were surveyed. 23.2% of surveyed boreholes were not fully functional. The 31% of the boreholes for which no information was received were mainly the inaccessible boreholes, or the boreholes constructed by NGOs that had withdrawn from the area. These may also have been the boreholes with a higher occurrence of breakdowns or reduced functionality (Leclert, 2014).
  • The Water Policy (2007) indicated that 30-50% of the water points are non-operational at any time in the different States (Leclert, 2014).


  • Of 820 macro and micro water schemes in the country, 25% are non-functional and 3% are partially functional (Ntshalintshali, Department of Water Affairs, in “Using Data for Learning and Sharing”, 2015).
  • A pilot water point mapping effort in 8 Tinkhundlas (sub-districts) beginning Nov 2010 showed that out of 2,689 water points, 11.5% are partially functional, and 29.9% are non-functional (Swaziland water point mapping report, 2012).
  • 22.9% (national) and 27.9% (Lubombo region, the study area) of the water schemes were non-functional (Government of Swaziland, Rural Water Supply Board, 2005 in Nkambule and Peter, 2012).


  • 8% of the private wells with rope pumps visited were not functional (installed 2008- 2015). For communal wells, 20% were not functional (installation between 2004-2015) (Maltha & Veldman, 2016).
  • In 2008, SNV along with Water Aid and Concern Worldwide conducted a Water Point Mapping exercise in 55 rural districts. The mapping data showed that 46% of water points were non-functional (SNV, 2015).
  • National mapping shows 38% of 74,331 water points are not functional, and 7% are functional but need repair (Water Point Mapping Tanzania).
  • A survey of 43 taps and 4 cattle troughs showed that 11% were not functional on the day of the visit (Welle & Williams, 2014).
  • One in four public kiosks were not functional at the time of an interview of 324 residents of Dar es Salaam (Listening to Dar, 2012).
  • An evaluation of handpumps, gravity-fed, motorized, and other water point systems showed 54.6% were non-functional (Jimenez., 2011).
  • See figure below for functionality of rural water supply schemes by age (six districts in Tanzania) (WaterAid (2011) Sustainability Framework):
Functionality of rural water supply schemes by age (six districts in Tanzania) WaterAid (2011) Sustainability Framework

Functionality of rural water supply schemes by age (six districts in Tanzania) WaterAid (2011) Sustainability Framework

  • The data collected in 10 districts shows that 2,620 water points (or 43%) are for various reasons not functional (SNV, 2010).
  • According to WaterAid (2009):
    • Nearly half (46%) of 65,000 public improved water points in rural areas were not functioning.
    • Two years after installation, already 25% of public improved water points were non-functional.
    • Up to 7.5 million rural Tanzanians lacked access to clean and safe water due to functionality problems.


  • 80% of rainwater harvesting tanks at 50 schools in Northern Uganda were not operational (Namata & Mujuni, 2015).
  • Poor siting and poor construction were the most significant factors for the failures of 10 handpumps (Bonsor et al, 2015).
  • Although Kabarole shows a good level of performance on the golden indicators (access and functionality), the actual level of service received by water users is substandard. Analysis of the actual level of services delivered from a sample of 150 water points shows poor performance, with aggregated service delivery scores of only 36%. The score is based on user input, service delivery scores, and service provision/governance (IRC Uganda, 2015).
  • A survey of 151 water schemes showed that 21.2% were not functional on the day of visit (Welle & Williams, 2014).
  • On average, close to 70% of all households surveyed in all the eight districts access low or substandard water services (Triple-S, 2014).
  • The MWE sector performance report 2013 shows that non-functionality for rural systems in Kabarole and Lira districts was 18% and 26% respectively. However, 30% of these systems are considered not reliable (Magara et al, 2014).
  • National mapping and monitoring showed that 19.1% of 15133 handpumps in Uganda were non-functional (Foster T., 2013).
  • 36% of 45 surveyed community managed well sites were not functional; another 24% were either semi-functional needing minor repairs or minimally functional needing major repairs (Truelove, 2013).
  • In Bundibugyo, 21% of water points are not functional on average. Some subcounties have functionality rates well above 90%, but others like Kanara and Bubandi have functionality rates as low as 33%. These non-functioning systems lead to dry tap stands, resulting in about 45,000 Bundibugyo residents who are reported to be covered but in reality have to walk long distances to the nearest alternative, often an unprotected water source. Bundibugyo has registered an outbreak of either cholera or typhoid fever or both every year for the past 3 years (SNV, 2013).
  • Only about 7% of 377 surveyed households reported that their village hand pumps had never failed, while the rest reported that their pumps failed nearly every month (14.5%), about twice or more in a year (54%) or once a year (15.6%). Some of the non-functional water sources were considered ‘landmarks’ by the village residents (Mugumya, 2013).
  • 19% of 79,413 water points are not working. Shallow wells have the highest non-functionality rates (approximately 30%), while protected springs have the lowest non-functionality rate (approximately 88%). As many as 2,303 point water sources (2.9%) are considered abandoned, having been non-functional for five or more years (Nekesa & Kulanyi, 2012).
  • 19% of water points across the country are non-functional based on the national water supply atlas (MWE, 2010).
  • Statistics on non-functionality (MWE, Republic of Uganda, 2013).


  • In 1980, UNICEF funded a national inventory of boreholes and found that, out of a national stock of 5,089, 75% were not working. An extensive rehabilitation program was undertaken, but three years later the percentage of non-working pumps had only decreased to 67.8% (IRC, 1993).


  • Post implementation surveys showed water point non-functionality rates of 20-23% (WaterAid, 2015).


  • A study in three wards in the Mbire district showed 3% of 32 boreholes were non-functional (Kwangware et al, 2014).
  • 67% of the surveyed rural communities in Gwanda depended on community-managed water resources mostly in the form of boreholes and protected wells. High rates of non-functional sources were reported at 60-70% in most wards. Several system weaknesses were noted including a depletion of committee memberships, inadequate community resources, limited agency and government support (Dube, 2012).
  • A study in Mt Darwin District found 38% of the boreholes studied not functioning. Average downtime for the boreholes was 3 weeks (University of Zimbabwe, 2009).
  • An evaluation of sustainability in 4 districts showed 14% of 37 borehole water points were non-functional in Mwenzi, 17% of 41 boreholes were non-functional in Gwanda, 13% of 38 boreholes were non-functional in Bulilima, and 25% of 28 boreholes were non-functional in Mangwe (Hoko Z. et al, 2006).
  • Out of 817 deep boreholes, 65% were estimated to be out of order (Waterkeyn & Cairncross, 2005).


  • The World Development Report estimates that more than one-third of existing rural water infrastructure in South Asia is not functional (World Bank, 2004).


  • Of 30,182 water points surveyed, 35% were non-functional (DACAAR via WaterAid-IRC-RWSN Webinar, 2014).
  • Nationally, 45% of water supply systems in public schools need extensive repair or replacement (UNICEF, 2012).



  • SNV Cambodia found these results (see figure below) after surveying 1008 water points in Chum Kiri District (672 tubewells, 13 protected dug wells, 262 unprotected dug wells, and 94 community ponds).cambodia functionality
  • 77% of surveyed households do not have even a basic level of water service (considering quantity, quality, accessibility and reliability) (Barakzai & Kome, 2014).


  • Of 2500 households in 80 villages across the country, 53% do not receive an acceptable level of service (Harris and Javorszky, 2015).
  • 25% of India’s water infrastructure is believed to be in need of repair (Ray, 2004 in Zwane & Kremer, 2007).
  • Evaluation of a representative sample of 10 water points found that consumers are not receiving protected water of the required quality in any scheme evaluated (Somayajulu, B.V.S., and Rao, Y.R., 1990).
  • UNICEF assisted the Government of India with water access by drilling thousands of wells starting in 1967 when a severe drought hit several states in India. Approximately 75% of the installed cast iron pumps were not working in 1974, just seven years later (Mudgal, 1997).


  • 86% of surveyed households in Atsaphone and 77% of surveyed households in Phin did not meet the basic level of water service, considering quality, quantity, accessibility, and reliability (Barakzai & Kome, 2014).


  • The National Management Information Project shows that of 40,000 gravity flow schemes, 82% are not fully functional (Mahato, RWSN e-discussion, June 10, 2013).
  • Of a sample of 192 water points across the country, 26% were found to be non-functional (FCG, 2013).
  • Out of 38,000 gravity flow water supply systems, about half are partly or totally defunct (Nepal Functionality Thematic Working Group, 2010).
  • A national survey of households in 36,038 wards found only 18% of the population with a water supply are served by well functioning water points/ systems; 39% are served by points that need minor repair, 12% by points that need major repair, 21% by points that need rehabilitation, 9% by points that need reconstruction, and 1.6% by points that cannot be rehabilitated (NMIP, 2011).
  • Of 6,278 water points visited, 20% were not functioning (NEWAH, 2005)


  • In public schools nationally, 39% of the water supply systems need extensive repair or replacement (UNICEF, 2012).
  • An independent study of ADB’s assistance to rural water supply in the Punjab Province identified, among others, these major concerns (Asian Development Bank Independent Evaluation Group, 2009):
    • 20% of the subprojects are nonfunctional
    • only 43% of community based organizations responsible for subprojects are functional and their capacity remains weak.

Timor Leste

  • Monitoring of 1868 aldeias showed non-functionality by type of water point as follows (DNSAS database, 2009 in Willetts, 2012):
    • 24% of spring-source piped systems (52% partially functional)
    • 16% of hand-dug wells with bucket (39% partially functional)
    • 28% of hand-dug wells with hand pump (68% partially functional)
    • 3% of bores electric pump (50% partially functional)
    • 10% of bores with solar pump (19% partially functional)
    • 4% of bores-hand pump (55% partially functional)
  • A survey of all systems in Aileu and Lautem Districts found non-functionality by water point type as follows (Hamel, 2009 in Willetts, 2012):
    • 10% of gravity-fed systems (63% partially functional)
    • 70% of power pumped systems (13% partially functional)
    • 0% of wells with bucket/rope (82% partially functional)
    • 32% of handpump systems (63% partially functional)
  • A survey of 134 systems in Covalima District showed that 26% of piped systems and 59% of hand pump systems were non-functional (Kamtukule, 2008 in Willetts, 2012).
  • A survey of 65 systems in Manatuto District showed 18% were non-functional and 68% were partially functional (Triangle, 2007 in Willetts, 2012).
  • An assessment of all (134) rural water supply systems in Covalima district found: of 54 piped systems, 44% were fully functional, 30% partially functional, and 26% not functioning. Of the 80 hand pumps, 11 were under construction, 41% of completed systems were fully functional and 59% not functioning (Oxfam, 2008).

Central America

Dominican Republic

  • A sustainability assessment of 61 rural water systems found that 18% are unlikely to be sustainable (it is unlikely the community will be able to overcome significant challenges) (Schweitzer & Mihelcic, 2012).


  • A survey of 1096 water kiosks and 2,266 water fountains showed that more than half of existing water kiosks are out of service in four geographical departments: Nord (63%), Sud (60%), Grand’Anse (59%) and Artibonite (53%) and 41.6% of existing water fountains inventoried are not functional (DINEPA, 2013).
  • In Port-de-Paix, there were no functioning public water sources in the city and 14 of 19 different sites throughout the city that investigators tested for water quality were bacterially contaminated (Center for Human Rights & Global Justice, 2007).



  • 14.5% of rural water supply systems do not meet microbial quality standards and 30.1% do not meet chemical standards (WHO, 2011).


  • 70% customers of 443 small water supply systems receive water that is not in compliance with the respective quality standards (WHO, 2011).

Czech Republic

  • Water quality data from approximately 1700 small public groundwater well supplies and 3300 private wells from the period 1991–1998 showed there was a non-compliance rate with health-related parameters of approximately 70% (WHO, 2011).

England & Wales

  • An analysis of data collected from 150 local water authorities covering approximately 35,000 microbial water quality results for approximately 11,200 private water supply sites from 1996–2003 showed that E. coli (an indicator of fecal contamination) was detected in 19% of samples, with at least one positive sample being detected at 32% of water supply sites (compared to 0.1% of samples from mains water supplies) (WHO, 2011).


  • In Baden-Württemberg, 523 samples from approximately 13,500 private wells were analyzed in 2007; non-compliance rates for E. coli (an indicator of fecal contamination) and total coliforms were at 18% and 43%, respectively (WHO, 2011).


  • Local piped water supply systems, used by 54% of the rural population, had a bacteriological failure rate of 23%. Local (non-piped) water sources, used by 13% of the population had a bacteriological failure rate of 30% (WHO, 2011).


  • Out of 1750 samples taken from private water supplies in Scotland between 1992 and 1998, 41% failed compliance for total coliforms, 30% failed for E. coli and 15% failed for nitrate. The combined failure rate was 48% (WHO, 2011).

South America


  • In over 100 communities visited in the rural municipality of Tiraque, fewer than ten had no water system, 17 were functioning per Bolivia government norms, and the rest were providing sub-par services, requiring anywhere from complete rehabilitations to minor repairs to ensure water of adequate quantity, quality, and continuity was being provided to all citizens (Fogelberg, 2013).


  • A sustainability study conducted by the Secretariat for Water found that 13% of the systems were sustainable, 29% had mild problems, 20% had severe problems, and 38% were broken down (mentioned in OAS).


  • In Loreto Region, it is estimated that 34% of water systems do not function (Calderon, J. 2004).
  • In a study of 104 rural water systems, only 32% were deemed “sustainable”; 66% were deteriorated and 2% were broken down (WSP, 2003).
  • A study by the National Water and Sanitation Programme (Pronasar 2001) revealed only 34.7% of rural water supply systems in rural areas was in good or fair condition (per CARE / WSP, 2005).

North America

United States

  • According to a class-action lawsuit, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality wasn’t treating the Flint River water with an anti-corrosive agent, in violation of federal law. Therefore, the water was eroding the iron water mains, turning water brown. About half of the service lines to homes in Flint are made of lead and because the water wasn’t properly treated, lead began leaching into the water supply, in addition to the iron (Ganim and Tran, 2016).
  • As much as 7,500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (also known as crude MCHM) spilled into the Elk River about a mile and a half upstream from where the West Virginia American Water utility draws its supply (Sheppard, 2014).

21 Responses

  1. Gary W Dancer

    I am very sad to read these figures.I am presently leding a project in Western Nepal and have attempted to secure its future by appointing a committee of local people to oversee the maintenance of plant etc when finished.I feel it is essential to have as much local input as possible.


    We need to educate on the causes of the failures. We should take extra precautionary steps to ensure sustainability.


    These reasons are good. But there are also factors such as:
    1) lack of sustainability of the aquifer (depletion of water levels on account of over exploitation of under ground water) There should be simultaneous and proper ongoing recharging of the underground water resources in absence of which the soil structure changes leading to its lessened water holding capacity next time the rain water goes down.
    2) Alienation from the project (Beneficiaries don’t get much involved much in the responsibility of maintenance).

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  8. Thanasius Sitolo

    Good work though I would suggest the article takes official statistics in Malawi. For example, water point functionality in December 2013 was at 75 percent as reported by Sector Performance Report (GoM, 2013)

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