Beyond the networked city: building innovative delivery systems for water, sanitation and energy in urban Africa

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Civil Engineering

Abstract

Our research will develop and test improved systems to deliver water, sanitation and energy services to marginalised people living in urban areas. These services are selected because they represent the most fundamental needs of urban populations and are the focus of SDG 6 (water and sanitation) and SDG 7 (energy). Our work will support the achievement of SDG 11 (sustainable communities and cities).
The research will be undertaken in Freetown, Sierra Leone and Kampala, Uganda. The population in both these cities is growing rapidly, with significant levels of poverty and significant numbers of informal settlements. Current rates of access to water supply, sanitation and energy are low in these cities, with striking inequalities in access to these services between wealthy and poor areas. The rapid increase in population has led to communities being established that are distant from existing infrastructure and difficult to serve. Households in marginalised communities therefore have to access water, sanitation and energy from informal and often 'off-grid' sources. This includes, for instance, using charcoal for energy, dug wells or protected springs for domestic water and basic on-site sanitation.
Our research will combine social, economic and political analysis with insights from natural and engineering science to understand how the infrastructure, management, finance and governance can be developed to improve water, sanitation and energy services. Our research is designed in five inter-related work areas. We will first establish a thorough understanding of each city. We will analyse how the cities have developed to date and how they are likely to develop in the future; we will identify which areas have access to formal services and which have access to informal services; and will we map the hazards and risks in each city. We will use data collected from official statistics to analyse each city and in Freetown we will use remotely sensed data from NASA to map the city.
We will then assess the formal on-grid services, using data key attributes of the infrastructure to develop risk maps. We will research the attitudes of suppliers, policy makers and city officials regarding the challenges and opportunities to extend services to people who don't currently have access. We will complement this by looking at how informal suppliers provide services, including the technologies they use and their business models. We will assess the resilience of the services and research the perceptions of the informal suppliers about how services can be improved and what they see as being their role in this. Next we will work in four marginalised communities to understand how and from where they currently access services, how much they pay and their perception of the quality of services. We will explore what people living communities think would be the best way to improve services and who they think should provide services.
We will use all the data we have collected about the city, from suppliers of services and from communities to develop a set of options for improving services to marginalised communities. This will use a 'Delphi' method that uses discussions to build consensus on which are the best options. We will involve policy makers, service providers and members of marginalised communities to develop the preferred options. The final part of our research will be to test specific interventions in four communities. We will undertake a formal outcome evaluation to assess how well these options work and undertake a value for money assessment of each option. We will also develop city-wide plans for the development of services over time. Throughout our research we will engage with local people, decision-makers and funders to ensure that our research addresses the questions they think are most important and to maximise the potential for our research to influence service development in each city.

Planned Impact

We have designed this project to maximise the potential for impact and have made impact a central consideration at each stage in the design. Th approach we have adopted in the research design, strongly rooted in the realities of each city and engaging with communities, service providers, policy makers and funders, ensures that our research will respond to the priorities of people living and providing services in each city and engages them in the research process.
The beneficiaries of this research fall into three groups. Firstly, we expect people living marginalised communities in both cities to benefit by supporting them to access safer, more reliable and more resilient water supply, sanitation and energy services. By directly involving communities in the research to identify their concerns and to understand their preferences, the findings and recommendations will reflect their needs and demands. By actively engaging the four selected communities in the Delphi workshops to develop preferred options, we will provide a direct voice for marginalised people on how and where services should be improved. These four communities will also directly benefit from the testing of the options, resulting in improvements in service delivery for them. Other marginalised communities will ultimately benefit from the development of municipal-wide service development plans which are based on the reality of their environments and experiences.
The second group of beneficiaries are the formal and informal providers of services and municipal authorities in each city, who will have access to evidence-based options and plans to help extend and maintain high quality services across their city. By using our research to look at the resilience of their systems and risks they face, and by working with them to identify their views on how services can be improved, our research findings will reflect the constraints and conditions they must operate within. Their role in the Delphi workshops and subsequent testing of options means that they will play a central role in developing new service delivery models that are realistic and deliverable. Their inputs into the municipal-wide plans that are the final output of the research will mean they have a stake in ensuring these can be successfully delivered. We anticipate that the models that emerge for testing and the municipal plans will include provision for formalising the important role of informal suppliers and so provide long-term opportunities for their business development.
The final group of beneficiaries are national and international policy makers who will have access to evidence-based models of service delivery for marginalised communities in rapidly growing urban areas. This will help national authorities plan the future development of these two cities and the other towns and cities in their countries. For international policy makers, it will provide models that can be applied in other countries and similar settings. Their engagement particularly in the Delhi workshops will allow them to both input and define preferred options, but also to hear the voices of marginalised communities and service providers directly, which will help them in defining more responsive policies.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have now compiled a detailed set of data and evidence for the water, sanitation and energy services in Kampala and Freetown drawn from multiple sources and which provide a comprehensive overview of the different services which has previously not been available. This is providing the research team and our partners with the evidence we need to be able to identify where services are vulnerable, the options for service improvement and to inform how we engage with communities on their preferences for services. In the long-term this will support improved access to services in each city and contribute to poverty reduction and in addressing inequalities in access between different population groups and taking into account gender inequality in access and participation in decision-making. In addition, we have developed a detailed vulnerability map of the piped water system for Kampala and an outline vulnerability map for Freetown which for the first time allows us to estimate where the critical points within the infrastructure lie and how we should prioritise actions to reduce vulnerability.
Exploitation Route The findings to date will be useful for our partners in both cities consider how services are currently provided and what future initiatives are required to improve service quality. These findings will therefore help both Uganda and Sierra Leone tackle core development challenges in the provision of water, sanitation and energy services and contribute to improved urban planning and environments. Our findings will help support delivery of sustainable development goals (SDGs) 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy) and 11 (sustainable cities and communities) in Sierra Leone and Uganda. We expect that our detailed analysis of the needs of different population groups and differentiated gender needs in accessing services will help to address inequality in access and decision-making over service provision.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Energy

 
Description We have used our findings to start engaging with our partners in Freetown and Kampala to discuss with municipal authorities, service providers and communities how to best deliver improved access to services and how these services can be designed so maximise benefits for health, reduced poverty and promoting more equitable economic development. The initial work in the project has laid the basis for more in-depth discussion with stakeholders as we move forward, including on the kinds of data, evidence and tools that will support decision-making. Our data is yet not gender-disaggregated to any great extent, but we have been developing community data collection tools that will allow the team to provide gender-disaggregated data in relation to access to services, and to explore how to address gendered inequality in participation in decision-making so that services meet the specific demands and needs of women and girls. The data collection tools we are developing will also permit us to provide disaggregated data on marginalised populations and use this to open a discussion on how to meet their needs.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Energy
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Title Risk analysis tool for piped water and sewerage systems 
Description We are developing a new risk analysis tool that can be applied to piped water systems and sewerage systems that describe the vulnerability of systems and the hazards they are threatened by. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This tool is being further developed to become an operational decision tool and ultimately will help service operators in their routine work and in prioritising actions to improve services and help guide investment strategies. 
 
Title Understanding piped system vulnerability 
Description We have developed a new model for assessing the vulnerability of piped water and sewerage systems that is dynamic and can be linked to climate variables into an overall risk model and can also be used to predict future growth in demand and risks associated with this. 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact We anticipate this new model being of use to water supply and water sewerage operators in their planning and management of their systems. 
 
Description Cabot Institute 
Organisation University of Bristol
Department Cabot Institute
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Members of the University of Bristol team (Professor Howard, Dr Pregnolato, Dr Williamson and Dr Aggarwal) have contributed to discussion on urban futures in the cross-University Cabot Institute of the Environment. This has led to increased profile within the University and via the Cabot website to the general public.
Collaborator Contribution The Cabot Institute City futures theme bring together researchers from many different disciplines and focus and their inputs have helped the research team frame their objectives and vision for this project.
Impact Our contribution to the Cabot institute has the importance of ensuring urban populations in low- and middle-income countries have access to safe, sustainable and resilient services if cities are to healthy and productive environments.
Start Year 2020
 
Description GWA Water Security Alliance urban dynamics of water security working group 
Organisation Cardiff University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The GWA Water Security Alliance (WSA) is a group of academics drawn from the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff sand Exeter. On the basis of this project we have supported the WSA develop a new working group focused on the issues related to the provision of water and sanitation services and sustainable water management in urban areas of Africa. We are part of the steering committee for the working group and we are helping to frame how this group will foster knowledge-exchange and capacity development across the four Universities and our partners.
Collaborator Contribution The leads on the working group bring different perspectives on water and sanitation service provision in urban Africa, ranging from socio-economic perspectives to new metrics for measuring water security. These perspectives are helping to develop a rounded and comprehensive approach o understanding these issues and helping to inform our thinking in relation to our research.
Impact There are no outputs to date. The group is inter-disciplinary including social scientists, engineers and physical scientists.
Start Year 2020
 
Description GWA Water Security Alliance urban dynamics of water security working group 
Organisation University of Bath
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The GWA Water Security Alliance (WSA) is a group of academics drawn from the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff sand Exeter. On the basis of this project we have supported the WSA develop a new working group focused on the issues related to the provision of water and sanitation services and sustainable water management in urban areas of Africa. We are part of the steering committee for the working group and we are helping to frame how this group will foster knowledge-exchange and capacity development across the four Universities and our partners.
Collaborator Contribution The leads on the working group bring different perspectives on water and sanitation service provision in urban Africa, ranging from socio-economic perspectives to new metrics for measuring water security. These perspectives are helping to develop a rounded and comprehensive approach o understanding these issues and helping to inform our thinking in relation to our research.
Impact There are no outputs to date. The group is inter-disciplinary including social scientists, engineers and physical scientists.
Start Year 2020
 
Description GWA Water Security Alliance urban dynamics of water security working group 
Organisation University of Exeter
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The GWA Water Security Alliance (WSA) is a group of academics drawn from the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff sand Exeter. On the basis of this project we have supported the WSA develop a new working group focused on the issues related to the provision of water and sanitation services and sustainable water management in urban areas of Africa. We are part of the steering committee for the working group and we are helping to frame how this group will foster knowledge-exchange and capacity development across the four Universities and our partners.
Collaborator Contribution The leads on the working group bring different perspectives on water and sanitation service provision in urban Africa, ranging from socio-economic perspectives to new metrics for measuring water security. These perspectives are helping to develop a rounded and comprehensive approach o understanding these issues and helping to inform our thinking in relation to our research.
Impact There are no outputs to date. The group is inter-disciplinary including social scientists, engineers and physical scientists.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Engagement with FCDO technical staff 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The PI has discussions with the Health of Profession for Infrastructure in what was DFID to discuss the project and how this project may contribute to wider O|DA objectives in relation to water, sanitation and energy services and wider urban development in Africa. The purpose of this engagement is to ensure that we develop impact from the project by encouraging uptake of our findings by a key bilateral donor. The outcome was a commitment to continue to engage, although this has been put on hold given the recent merger of DFID and the FCO.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Participation in Attended UKCDR's 'Preventing Harm in Research' webinar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Sam Williamson participated in this workshop and was able to use the information and knowledge gained to support the development of the project safeguarding strategy and plan.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Participation in the GCRF Off-grid cities and sustainable energy virtual workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Two members of the team (Guy Howard and Liza Cirolia) participated in the GCRF Off-grid cities and sustainable energy virtual workshop. This event provided an opportunity to engage with a wide range of research teams working on similar ODA-funded research projects and to explore issues where multiple projects are looking at and to learn rom other research teams how they are approaching these issues and delivery of research in LMICs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Project webpage 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The project website has just been launched as of March 2021 and will be developed throughout the course of the project. We intend to use it to disseminate research outcomes including tools developed as well as academic outputs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL http://www.bristol.ac.uk/engineering/research/water-and-sanitation/beyond-the-networked-city/