Supplying rural Kazakhstan with safe water and sanitation

Abstract: Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is essential for both individual and population health as well as for quality of life and dignity. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require nations to ensure adequate water supply and sanitation for all. For Kazakhstan, this means that rural areas will need a much stronger attention as they have been rather neglected in efforts to comply with the previous UN Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). A new massive drinking water program in Kazakhstan has the aim to cover 80% of the rural people with access to tap water from a centralized piped system by 2020. This study aimed at establishing a foundation for a management system to better supply rural Kazakhstan with safe access to water and sanitation. The data collection included interviews with households in 37 villages in the Pavlodar area, Kazakhstan. The results can be seen as guidelines that can help to illuminate some of the uncounted challenges in future effort to meet the SDG targets in Kazakhstan as well as other similar areas in Central Asia. The study examined the current access to drinking water and sanitation services and willingness of people to pay to maintain the access to piped water in rural areas in Northern Kazakhstan, in order to establish a foundation for a water and sanitation management systems. The results show that there are several types of raw water sources and the most common one is private boreholes. Despite the efforts to provide people with potable water during the recently completed national water supply program there is still lack of access to tap water from the piped water supply system as well as access to a safe sanitation. And this can be explained by a lack of baseline data on access to water and sanitation. The baseline data reflecting the real situation in terms of water supply and sanitation are needed for targeting and designing the improvements. Another reason for failure of previous water supply programs is that interventions so far have been top-down. Furthermore, the responsible authorities need to appreciate that national drinking water programs need to be based on surveys of existing water and sanitation service as well as a shift to more bottom-up and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene oriented planning approaches. Results show that a majority of water source users want to connect to and pay for the maintenance of the piped water system and enjoy tap water at home. The study determined important determinants for the willingness to connect and pay; however, they are specific to each water user. Thus, integration of local water users is crucially important, since they are the beneficiaries of any water intervention program. This will show the actual need for any drinking water intervention and willingness to use and pay for the water supply systems. It will not be possible for Kazakhstan to reach 80% coverage of tap water from a centralized piped system to the rural people by 2020 according to the national water program whereas the safe access to WASH for rural people is the most important. In any case, considerable progress can only be made by carefully managing the existing water supply and sanitation system in joint collaboration with the local users. Hence, we see the present results as important first step in this direction.