Working Paper No. 88
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services levels remain stubbornly low in rural India despite high levels of public expenditure during recent decades. In many areas, this is a result of service levels slipping back for reasons that include inadequate protection of water sources (both quantity and quality) and relatively more attention being given to capital expenditure than expenditure on operational and capital maintenance. Using information in the public domain and data from a pilot study, this paper argues that adoption of life-cycle cost approaches (LCCA) could play a significant role in rectifying this situation by providing a framework for identifying and plugging gaps in the present pattern of expenditure. It is argued also that LCCA will provide a sound basis for operationalising the WASH Guidelines released by the Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission in 2009. These guidelines signal a commendable shift away from viewing the provision of WASH services as primarily an engineering challenge to one that requires activities that include source protection, institution building and long-term support, and pro-poor planning, all of which need to be budgeted for by WASH service providers and/or users. Preliminary findings indicate that LCCA can be used to assess the actual life- cycle costs of sustainable, equitable and efficient WASH services delivery. The challenge now is to investigate how best LCCA can be mainstreamed into WASH planning and other governance processes.