Self-supply as an alternative approach to water access in rural scattered regions: evidence from a rural microcatchment in Colombia

Isabel Dominguez Rivera, Wilmar Torres-López, Inés Restrepo-Tarquino, Charlotte Patterson, John Gowing


Globally, access to improved water sources is lower in rural areas compared to urban areas. Furthermore, in rural areas many people use water from individual systems they have developed with their investments, often without external support. This phenomenon has been called Self-supply. Self-supply ranges from simple to complex systems and different water sources. Water quality varies, from achieving World Health Organization (WHO) standards (0 CFU/100 ml) to systems that provide water posing high risks to human health. While most studies in Self-supply have been developed in Africa, little is known in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). This research explores Self-supply in a rural microcatchment in Colombia (LAC). Data was collected through household and drinking water surveys and analysed. Results showed that 40% of households used Self-supply systems taking water from springs and brooks. Thermotolerant Coliforms were below 50 CFU/100 ml, both in dry and rainy season, and between 5 to 7% of samples achieved the WHO standard. These results suggest that Self-supply has potential to offer safe drinking water, provided improvements on source protection and institutional support. Therefore, Self-supply could contribute to address “unfinished business”, including ensuring access for the hardest-to-reach people, as stated in the post-2015 development agenda.


Self-supply, water quality, Thermotolerant coliforms, rural areas, Colombia

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