“Marc Antoine Castel spends five hours a day, and often weekends and holidays, at the office of the town water system, which he runs. He does it for love, although he hopes one day to do it for money, too.
“If someone is a professional water operator with no other activities, he will be broke,” Castel, 37, said glumly of the current arrangement. He makes his living as a high school teacher and a lawyer.Castel is part of an experiment to make clean water a business in Haiti’s villages.
“Rural Haitians have always been pretty much on their own when it comes to water, getting it where they can and carrying it home in five-gallon buckets balanced on the head.
“In many places, local water utilities make the task a bit easier, piping water from streams, springs and wells to public pumps and spigots. Sometimes they disinfect it and sometimes they don’t. Often built by foreign charities, the systems are managed by “water committees” comprised of local volunteers.
“This arrangement isn’t unique to Haiti. It’s common throughout the developing world, where safe water has been a focus of investment for decades.
“Between 1990 and 2008, $50 billion was spent globally on rural water projects, according to one estimate. However, development experts now conclude that much of the investment was a waste.
“There are many reasons.
“Volunteers left to run the system after the outsiders who construct leave rarely have sufficient expertise. The cost of running a water system for 10 years is three times the cost of installing it. User fees, however, are rarely high enough or collected consistently enough to support ongoing operations.
“In almost every village there is some sort of water system, but 50 percent are not working,” said Christophe Prevost, a water and sanitation specialist at the World Bank. “It only takes three to five years to get the service completely ruined.”
Read more: Washington post