Community-based water management: The case of unregulated self-governance of drinking water systems in coastal Bangladesh

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Substantial progress has been made toward drinking water access globally, including in Bangladesh, where over 98% of people have basic water services. Bangladesh’s rural water supply policy deploys the responsibility of maintaining the water infrastructure solely to the community, which is performing well for 95% of the country's population for groundwater-based hand pump systems. However, the coastal region in Bangladesh still suffers from chronic water insecurity driven by complex socio-hydrology, resulting in no access to suitable groundwater. To access clean drinking water, this hazard-prone, low-income, climate change vulnerable community depends on community-based adaptation technologies (e.g., Rain-fed Pond, Pond Sand Filter, Rainwater Harvesting) subject to numerous limitations, particularly poor operation and management. Here, we used three theories of common-pool water management: (i) Ostrom’s design principles, (ii) collective action, and (iii) moral economies for water to evaluate the self-governance of the community-based Pond Sand Filter (PSF) system. Data was collected through individual interviews with water users and management personnel in January 2024 in two PSF sites (one functional and another non-functional system) in Khulna, coastal Bangladesh. Our initial findings reveal that the existing management system can be defined more by moral economies for water than collective action and design principles by ensuring access and equity but cannot guarantee sustainable self-governance. We argue that a functional system does not guarantee a good system. The functional PSF system has been running for more than ten years, but there is a lack of trust and accountability in water management. Along with the moral economies for water, we still need design principles and collective action for a sustainable self-governance system. Besides, the self-governance of these common pool resources is a risky responsibility due to the unbearable cost of maintenance and increased threats of climate change. This study will inform the decision maker to make necessary policy reforms to improve service delivery and ensure sustainable water in a low-income, hazard-prone, and climate-change context.



water governence