Operation and Maintenance

Compiled by:
Leonellha Barreto Dillon (seecon international gmbh)

Resumen Ejecutivo

Generally, water and sanitation projects experience their most serious problems with operation and maintenance and with cost recovery aspects. Hundreds of projects around the world demonstrate how the newly built infrastructure deteriorates after the project’s termination. Therefore, it is imperative to plan for operation and maintenance, with a planned withdrawal of external support as local ownership builds. This document is intended for managers and planners who are concerned with the challenging problem of how to implement effective operation and maintenance in water and sanitation projects.

Operation and maintenance (O&M) activities, which encompass not only technical issues, but also managerial, social, financial and institutional issues, must be directed towards the elimination or reduction of the major constraints which prevent the achievement of sustainability (BRIKKE 2000). Operation and maintenance is a crucial element of sustainability, and a frequent cause of failure of water supply and sanitation service facilities in the past. Many failures are not technical ones. They may result from poor planning, inadequate cost recovery, or the outreach inadequacies of centralised agencies (DFID 1998).

Operation and maintenance has been neglected in the past, or been discussed and introduced only after a project was completed. This neglect or delay in applying proper operation and maintenance has adversely affected the credibility of the investments made, the functioning of the services, the well-being of rural populations, and the development of further projects. However, the importance of O&M has gained considerable visibility over the past few years, and it appears that policy-makers and project designers are now more conscious of the direct links between improved O&M practices and the sustainability of water supply and sanitation services. There is also greater recognition of the need to approach these projects in a comprehensive way, emphasising not only the design and construction but also post-construction activities (BRIKKE 2000).

Definition of Operation and Maintenance

Operation and maintenance refers to all of the activities needed to run a water supply and sanitation scheme, except for the construction of new facilities. The overall aim of operation and maintenance is to ensure efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of water supply and sanitation facilities (CASTRO 2009).

The two activities of “operation” and “maintenance” are very different in nature. Operation refers to the direct access to the system by the user (e.g. operating the hand pump), to the activities of any operational staff (e.g. operators of motorised pumps), and to the rules or by-laws, which may be devised to govern who may access the system, when, and under what conditions. Maintenance, on the other hand, is to do with the technical activities, planned or reactive, which are needed to keep the system working. Maintenance requires skills, tools and spare parts (CARTER 2009). Maintenance can be classified as follows (adapted from CASTRO 2009):

Preventive maintenance: includes work that is planned and carried out on a regular basis to maintain and keep the infrastructure in good condition, such as network inspection, flushing of the well, cleaning and greasing of mechanical parts and replacement of items with a limited lifespan. It sometimes also includes minor repairs and replacement as dictated by the routine examinations.

Corrective maintenance: replacing or repairing something that was done incorrectly or that needs to be changed; an example is the reallocation of a pipe route or replacement of a faulty pump.

Reactive maintenance: a reaction to a crisis or public complaints; it normally occurs as a result of failures and the malfunctioning or breakdown of equipment. In order to ensure the routine maintenance and health of the system, the technician should adhere to a routine check-up. The project manager will need to ensure that the technician is doing his/her job. If done correctly and on a regular schedule, preventive measures can reduce the risk of costly repairs. The key to ensuring effective equipment maintenance is to make certain that responsibilities are clearly defined and maintenance personnel have the tools and skills to do their job effectively. It is also essential to schedule preventive maintenance.

 

Design for Operation and Maintenance

(Adapted from DFID 1998)

 ifrc.org

Training on operation of water and sanitation equipment. Source: unknown

The ease of operation and maintenance of a facility is central to its sustainability and must be given careful consideration in design. Some operation and maintenance issues are location-specific, but urban and rural projects differ fundamentally in the complexity of the technologies involved. In rural areas, the concept of Village Level Operation and Maintenance Management (VLOM) is a philosophy which has been gaining favour over the years. The VLOM approach restricts technology choices to those that can be operated and maintained within the community for which the intervention is intended. In urban situations, where supply systems will generally be more complex, the design and technology chosen will shape the long-term operation and maintenance requirements. When designing a piped water supply or sewerage system, the engineer must, for instance, take into account operation and maintenance factors such as the availability of chemicals for treatment, spare parts, and equipment, the reliability of power supplies, and the availability of local skills and capacity to undertake O&M.

The standardisation of equipment, parts, designs, construction methods, etc., has many benefits: Design is simpler. Choices are made from a limited range of options. In the short term, this may marginally increase construction costs as the standard designs may not be perfectly suited to the situation. But it requires lower skill levels in the design process, and repetitive construction of the same item improves quality. Operation and maintenance benefits too: Limiting the range of spare parts increases the quantity of each item that is required (i.e. more of a few items rather than less of many). This encourages local manufacture because the limited range reduces start-up costs and the increased quantity improves profitability. Standardisation also reduces the number of skills required to instal and maintain the piece of equipment, thus increasing the probability of local craftsmen being able to carry out the work.


Community Management for Operation and Maintenance

In many cases, in order to ensure the sustainability of the sanitation and improved water solution, it is necessary to have a community ownership and management approach, making the end-users directly responsible for the operation and maintenance of the installed facilities. Successful operation and maintenance require following an “owner’s manual” prepared by the contractor and engineer at the onset of the planning process. This should spell out a schedule and procedures for maintenance and should also include methods to carry out tasks such as bookkeeping, paying employees, collecting bills (utility management), inspection, refurbishments, replacement of parts, etc., giving an integral framework for operation and maintenance (NETSSAF 2008).

 

Capacity Building to Ensure Proper Operation and Maintenance

Households and members of the community need to be informed about the system that has been put in place for a proper operation. When new user-interfaces or management approaches have been introduced, such as Urine Diversion Dehydration Toilets (UDDT) or a new system for composting of kitchen waste, which heavily rely on the correct operation from the user’s side, the end-users have to be properly trained to ensure that they will operate the systems correctly. In a district level, communities and their organisations (Community-Based Organisations) that will undertake O&M and/or management of local infrastructure will need training on technical matters, accounting and simple financial management, basic contract procedures, and monitoring and reporting. NGOs that will become involved in the programme need similar training, but at a more advanced level, as they are probably going to have to train the participating communities (EAWAG 2005). Local technicians and caretakers need to be trained for the proper operation of the new infrastructure. In this case, on-hands training is desired in order to ensure the fully understanding and the implications of the new system. Private operators or local engineering companies, which will take care of the maintenance of the systems, should be also trained in the type of maintenance activities that have to be carried out periodically.

 

Organising and Planning Operation and Maintenance

Organising for O&M does not represent a huge task, but it does require certain level of planning, commitment and monitoring. The aspects to be organised are:

 

  • What: the activity which is to be carried out
  • When: the frequency of this activity
  • Who: the human resources required for the task
  • With what: what are the materials, spare parts, tools and equipments needed

 

The following table gives an idea of the type of tools which have to be developed to support the operation and maintenance of a new infrastructure. The example relates to the O&M of a septic tank (adapted from CASTRO 2009):

O&M requirements of a septic tank (from CASTRO 2009)

O&M requirements of a septic tank. Source: CASTRO (2009)

Aplicabilidad

Operation and Maintenance is required to ensure the sustainability of any project in which a new infrastructure has been put into place.

Ventajas

  • O&M activities ensure that the project is sustainable in a long-term
  • O&M allow for the correct provision of services and benefit of end-users
  • O&M prevent the systems to collapse creating environmental and health hazards
  • Community can be involved in O&M

Desventajas

  • O&M activities cost time and money, and therefore a provision for financing O&M has to be planned before the project starts

Referencias Library

BRIKKÈ, F. (2000): Operation and Maintenance of rural water supply and sanitation systems. A training package for managers and planners. Malta: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre and World Health Organisation. URL [Accessed: 06.09.2010]. PDF

CARTER, R. C. (2009): Operation and Maintenance of Rural Water Supplies. In: Perspectives N° 2. St. Gallen: Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN). URL [Accessed: 06.09.2010]. PDF

CASTRO, V.; MSUYA, N.; MAKOYE, C. (Editor) (2009): Sustainable Community Management of Urban Water and Sanitation Schemes (A Training Manual). Nairobi: Water and Sanitation Program-Africa, World Bank. URL [Accessed: 06.09.2010]. PDF

EAWAG (Editor) (2005): Household-Centred Environmental Sanitation, Implementing the Bellagio Principles in Urban Environmental Sanitation – Provisional Guideline for Decision Makers. Geneva, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. URL [Accessed: 17.03.2010]. PDF

See document in FRENCH, SPANISH

DFID (Editor) (1998): Guidance Manual on Water Supply and Sanitation Programmes. London: Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC) for the Department for International Development (DFID). URL [Accessed: 04.01.2011]. PDF

BARRETO DILLON, L.; BUZIE FRU, C.; ONADIPE, E. ; ROBERTI PÉREZ, L. (Editor) (2008): Introduction to the NETSSAF Participatory Planning Approach, a tutorial and guideline for sustainable sanitation planning . (= Proceedings of the NETSSAF Final Conference “Pathways towards Sustainable Sanitation in Africa"). Ouagadougou: NETSSAF. URL [Accessed: 02.04.2010]. PDF

NETSSAF (Editor) (2008): NETSSAF Participatory Planning-Approach. A tutorial for sustainable sanitation planning. Network for the Development of Sustainable Approaches for Large Scale Implementation of Sanitation in Africa. URL [Accessed: 29.03.2010]. PDF

Lectura Complementaria Library

Reference icon

CARTER, R. C. (2009): Operation and Maintenance of Rural Water Supplies. In: Perspectives N° 2. St. Gallen: Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN). URL [Accessed: 06.09.2010]. PDF

In these paragraphs the author explores the concept of O&M, discusses certain myths about it; and suggests ways to improve it.


Reference icon

COLIN, K. (1999): Village-level Operation and Maintenance Management for Rural Water Supply: Lessons from Experience, WELL Study. Loughborough: WELL. URL [Accessed: 06.09.2010]. PDF

This study summarises the findings of a literature review of sector experience with the village level operation and maintenance management approach to rural water supply.


Reference icon

NETSSAF (Editor) (2008): NETSSAF Participatory Planning-Approach. A tutorial for sustainable sanitation planning. Network for the Development of Sustainable Approaches for Large Scale Implementation of Sanitation in Africa. URL [Accessed: 29.03.2010]. PDF

This is the actual tutorial of the participative planning approach developed by NETSSAF, containing all the steps, sub-steps and case studies. It is freely available on the internet in French and English.


Reference icon

WACP-UNHABITAT-WATER FOR ASIAN CITIES PROGRAMME, INDIA- UN-HABITAT (Editor) (1999): Community Managed Systems for Operation, Billing and Collection of Water Charges. (= Policy Paper 1). Nairobi: UN-HABITAT. URL [Accessed: 06.09.2010]. PDF

This paper puts forward possible measures for strengthening the urban water sector along with the enhancement of the capacity of the community, emphasizing the importance of water charges billing and collection involving user groups or NGOs.


Reference icon

SCHUTTE, F.; WRC (Editor) (2007): Handbook for the Operation of Water Treatment Works. Gezina: Water Research Commission (WRC). URL [Accessed: 30.03.2011]. PDF

The purpose of this handbook is to provide comprehensive information specifically on all aspects related to the treatment of water for domestic use. The focus is on the operational aspects of treatment.


Reference icon

VERHAGEN, J.; CARRASCO, M. (2013): Full-Chain Sanitation Services That Last. Non-Sewered Sanitation Services. The Hague: International Water and Sanitation Center (IRC). URL [Accessed: 07.08.2013]. PDF

This paper sets out a framework for the delivery of non-sewered sanitation services that last, are accessible to all and are at scale. The framework is based on IRC International Water and Sanitation’s (IRC) experience and lessons learnt from its engagement in non-sewered sanitation service at scale.


Reference icon

BOULENOUAR, J.; SCHWEITZER, R.; LOCKWOOD, H. (2013): Mapping Sustainability Assessment Tools to Support Sustainable Water and Sanitation Service Delivery. (= Working Paper, 6). The Hague: International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC), Water Services that Last. URL [Accessed: 01.11.2013]. PDF

This paper reviews five different sustainability assessment tools that are currently in use for programme monitoring of WASH interventions. The selected tools all have a developed framework that has each been pilot tested and produces an objective and quantifiable output (e.g., final score or percentage) that can be used to trigger improvements to programme design or take remedial actions.


Estudios de Caso Library

Reference icon

NORMAN, G.; PARKER, S.; WSUP (Editor) (2011): Business models for delegated management of local water services: experience from Naivasha (Kenya). (= Topic Brief, 2). London: Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP). URL [Accessed: 03.03.2011]. PDF

This Topic Brief describes a business model for delegated management of local water services, recently developed with WSUP support in the Kenyan Rift Valley town of Naivasha. This business model is designed to ensure affordable but high-quality services for consumers, profitability for the operators, and sufficient revenues for sustainable asset maintenance.


Reference icon

BHANDARI, B.; GRANT, M.; CURRY, S.; WEDC (Editor) (2006): Sustainable Development of Water Resources, Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation. A Willingness to Pay for Maintenance and Operation of Rural DWS Schemes. (= WEDC Conference, 32). Colombo: Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC). URL [Accessed: 01.01.1970]. PDF

This paper analyses the differences between the users’ willingness to pay for maintenance and operation in rural markets and village DWS schemes of Nepal based on information collected through a questionnaire survey of 205 households and institutional survey of 12 DWS water user committees.


Reference icon

OBUOBISA-DARKO, A.; ASIMAH, S. E.; WEDC (Editor) (2005): Maximizing the Benefits from Water and Environmental Sanitation. Sustainable Operation and Maintenance of Small Towns Water Supply Systems in Ghana. (= WEDC Conference, 31). Kampala: Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC). URL [Accessed: 03.05.2011]. PDF

Experiences and best practices that have been learnt in this case study in Ghana are shared and recommendations made to enhance sustainable operation and maintenance of small towns water supply systems.


Reference icon

MUELLEGGER, E. (Editor); LANGEGRABER, G. (Editor); LECHNER, M. (Editor) (2010): Operation and Maintenance. Successful Models for O and M of Sanitation Systems. (= Sustainable Sanitation Practice, 2). Vienna: Ecosan Club. URL [Accessed: 01.07.2013]. PDF

This Sustainable Sanitation Practice (SSP) issue contains the following contributions: 1. Public Toilets in Vienna, Austria, 2. Sanitation as a Business - Malawi, 3. O&M in Two Public Institutions - Uganda, 4. O&M Systems for UDDTs in Nakuru, Kenya, 5. O&M in Rural Settings Affected by Conflicts - Uganda.


Materiales de Sensibilización Library

Reference icon

MUELLEGGER, E. (Editor); LANGEGRABER, G. (Editor); LECHNER, M. (Editor) (2010): Operation and Maintenance. Successful Models for O and M of Sanitation Systems. (= Sustainable Sanitation Practice, 2). Vienna: Ecosan Club. URL [Accessed: 01.07.2013]. PDF

This Sustainable Sanitation Practice (SSP) issue contains the following contributions: 1. Public Toilets in Vienna, Austria, 2. Sanitation as a Business - Malawi, 3. O&M in Two Public Institutions - Uganda, 4. O&M Systems for UDDTs in Nakuru, Kenya, 5. O&M in Rural Settings Affected by Conflicts - Uganda.


Materiales de Formación Library

Reference icon

BRIKKÈ, F. (2000): Operation and Maintenance of rural water supply and sanitation systems. A training package for managers and planners. Malta: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre and World Health Organisation. URL [Accessed: 06.09.2010]. PDF

This document and the training activities described in it are intended for managers and planners and contain information on how to implement effective operation and maintenance of rural water supply and sanitation services in developing countries. In addition to the traditional management aspects of operation and maintenance, this training package highlights the importance of community participation, with a right gender balance, in order to make more efficient use of local human resources for sustainability.


Reference icon

CASTRO, V.; MSUYA, N.; MAKOYE, C. (Editor) (2009): Sustainable Community Management of Urban Water and Sanitation Schemes (A Training Manual). Nairobi: Water and Sanitation Program-Africa, World Bank. URL [Accessed: 06.09.2010]. PDF

The aim of this capacity building programme is to improve the efficiency and positive impact of urban, community-managed water and sanitation schemes. The manual covers technical issues such as operations and maintenance activities, but also has a strong focus on institutional, managerial and financial issues. The seven modules are meant to equip communities with the tools to eliminate or reduce the major constraints in managing infrastructure and providing services. The manual also aims to clarify the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders. It was written for a development setting but still contains relevant training methodologies and information in humanitarian crises situations.


Vínculos Importantes

http://www.irc.nl/ [Accessed: 16.08.2010]

Web page of the International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) with several publications on water supply systems operation and maintenance.

http://www.netssaftutorial.com [Accessed: 06.05.2010]

This is the actual tutorial of the participative planning approach which has been described, containing all the steps, sub-steps and case studies. It is free available in internet in French and English.

https://improveinternational.wordpress.com [Accessed: 06.06.2013]

This is an ongoing compilation of statistics to show that failure rates for water systems, latrines, and hygiene promotion campaigns are still high after decades of intervention.

http://www.washdoc.info/ [Accessed: 18.12.2013]

IRC Sanitation Pack, SanPack for short, contains an overview of available methods, techniques and tools in a low-cost, non-sewered sanitation service model, including information on operation and maintenance. It is a reference guide containing links to relevant documents explaining the different stages in the sanitation cycle.