Creating a Multiple Use Water Movement
The Winrock team returned from Ethiopia and Nepal and has begun synthesizing everything they learned during their three weeks in the field into a useful deliverable that will be used by organizations in the broader development community seeking to understand and implement the basic principles behind the Multiple Use Water Services movement.
The Multiple Use Water Services (MUS) movement wants to reach a wider audience. So far, the MUS movement has been targeted at other water organizations - meaning much of the language that’s used to talk about the movement is very technical and geared toward experts in the field.
“Our challenge is to create materials for MUS that are professional sounding, but also simple enough to be accessible to non-water professionals,” says IDEO.org" target="_blank">IDEO.org" target="_blank">IDEO.org" target="_blank">IDEO.org" target="_blank">IDEO.org" target="_blank">IDEO.org/" target="_blank">IDEO.org Fellow Adam Reineck. “The goal is professional simplicity.”
The Winrock team has found that while practitioners of the MUS movement are very good at assessing the situation on the ground in a community and then working closely with that community to build a sustainable water system, MUS practitioners have had a challenge communicating the specifics of their movement to a broader audience.
“The communication challenge means that they’ve had trouble scaling the movement to the place where it should be,” says IDEO.org Fellow Jessica Vechakul.
Imagine a small village in Ethiopia that needs a clean water source. It’s obvious that digging a well to provide water to the town is a good idea. But what about all the ways in which a new well might impact the village? How should water be divided between humans and livestock? Between drinking water and sanitation? Between the owners of large farms who need lots of water and the owners of tiny homes with minimal water requirements? Water touches every aspect of life in a village, and MUS practitioners believe that the whole ecosystem should be considered when designing and implementing such a system.
MUS practitioners work with a community to provide management training, hygiene training, agriculture training, technical and plumbing training, and even literacy training. Why do they do this? Because acquiring these skills directly impacts the community's ability to operate a sustainable water system. Another common practice when creating a MUS installation is the establishment of a community development fund wherein each member of the community is responsible for paying a small amount into the fund each month. When the pump breaks or a pipe springs a leak and repairs are needed, the development fund covers the cost of repairs.
It generally takes about three years from start to finish to install a successful and sustainable MUS system. And that’s one of the challenges that the IDEO.org Winrock team is facing - there is no silver bullet or magic modular system that works in every village. Instead, the MUS movement is predicated on designing a comprehensive water solution tailored to the needs of the specific community.
“It’s much more a way of thinking,” says Reineck. “It’s a development mindset, almost like design thinking, as opposed to a set of three or five steps that can be easily packaged and presented to the world.”
So what’s next for the IDEO.org Winrock team? The team has started working closely with IDEO.org Communication Designer Joseph Shipp and other designers from the broader IDEO community to 1) simplify the MUS methodology so that it's accessible to a broader and less technical range of potential practitioners; and 2) explain how MUS works in a more visual manner. Reineck describes this as a “process journey” that's likely to center initially on a short document (one or two pages) that will get people excited. The team will then expand the deliverable to a much more detailed document (in the 30-to-40 page range) that dives deeper into the MUS movement.
-Sean Hewens, IDEO.org Knowledge Manager