The Struggle for Safe Water
The provision of water and sanitation in the Peruvian region of La Libertad presents many problems. In the urban areas of the country, the municipal public water supply companies have budget deficits and few qualified personnel. In rural areas, the Sanitation Services Administration Boards do not have the technical or financial capacities to guarantee the minimum standards in provision. As a result, the uncertainty about water quality is constant among the public, particularly in rural areas where the water is mostly not treated. What’s more, for those wanting to report inadequate water supply standards or request that services be improved, there aren’t really any official channels through which to submit their complaints.
Mapping Clean Water
To make sure that everyone has a clean and sustainable supply of water, the government has committed to building a means by which citizens can report the locations and standards of water and sanitation systems. By clicking on an interactive online map of La Libertad, people will be given up-to-date information about the local water systems and about the quality of that water. The digital tool will also show citizens how water resources are being managed and by which local authorities, allowing them to identify problems and know who to contact. To make the tool intuitive for any and every kind of person using the platform, this information will be color-coded using green, yellow, and red to show a high, medium or low supply or quality of water in the region respectively. Through this system, residents of La Libertad will also be able to send suggestions or report water-related issues in their localities.
A Rural Focus
Gathering all the information about water sources, the authorities that manage them, and their quality, requires the cooperation of a number of municipalities, offices, and authorities. The formation of committees from these groups went smoothly, but mostly for those in rural areas. In order to keep things moving forward, and to avoid the complexities of the urban systems, the scope of the project was adjusted from the entire region to just the rural areas. This should allow for the quick implementation of the new system to areas that are in particular need of it.
However, the reports that the government should be providing have not been updated regularly enough to reasonably be described as ‘up-to-date’. Because the initial time period was given as yearly, the lack of current information would in all likelihood mean the resource would not gain much traction with the public. When your water supplies are changeable and unreliable, how much use would you have for information from last year?
In response to criticism about this shortcoming, this period is now being adjusted from yearly to quarterly.
Accelerating the Reports, Responding to Need
This commitment has the potential to deliver quality water services to thousands of people in the region. So far the changes are significant, and if the new system is a success in the rural areas of La Libertad, it could then possibly be replicated in the urban centers, or even copied to other territories. One key area to focus on is developing the means to provide more updated information, which will be essential to the success of the platform. Another is to deliver reliably on the reports received through the platform. If the public sees that submitting reports and requests to the government about water sources leads to changes and improvements, public use of the platform is bound to build momentum, and the water systems of Peru will rapidly improve as a result.