October 28, 2011
After departing Nepal, the IDEO.org Winrock team flew to Ethiopia to see more Multiple Use Services (MUS) in action. From urban gardening in the slums of Addis Ababa to fluoride treatment plants in the Rift Valley, the team observed how MUS can be applied in vastly different settings for different populations.
Our field visits have reinforced the notion that MUS is a complete approach to planning water services for a community's multiple needs. It is much, much, more than just a system of technologies. The water systems we're observing can actually take the form of many different types of infrastructure. Clothes washing facilities, tap stands for collecting drinking water, cattle troughs, and rain water harvesting systems are just a few of the MUS technologies that we've seen employed in Ethiopia.
What we've observed in Ethiopia is that planning for a community's multiple water needs increases the sustainability of a project. For example, irrigation water reservoirs can serve as fishponds. Income from selling off-season vegetables or fish can enable the community to maintain irrigation systems and ponds, as well as systems for drinking water.
By talking with community members, we've learned so much about how they are skillfully managing their water services. Irrigation user committees and drinking water committees collect fees from people who benefit from these services so that there is money to make repairs when a motor or tap breaks. These water committees determine their own rules and management systems, so they have ownership of these water services and can continue to operate these MUS systems even after NGO involvement ceases.
Yesterday, we completed our final field visit here in Ethiopia! Our challenge now will be to synthesize everything we've learned about the MUS approach in a simple way so that NGOs worldwide can easily understand and adopt this innovative way of implementing water services.