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Challenge(s) addressed:

  • Water supply projects installed in the immediate aftermath of disasters are highly susceptible to both failure and slippage (reversion back to previous practices).
  • Methodologies for understanding and analysing the impact of these water supply interventions, which considers both the technical (hardware) and non-technical (software) issues are limited and insufficiently indicate the cause of the problems.


Development of a methodology which allows for the post-conflict systems to be fully analysed by combining traditional surveying methods, such as Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) surveys, with quantitative technical tools, such as Case Based Reasoning (CBR).

Added Value:
The University of Edinburgh and Concern Worldwide will work together to develop a methodology for analysing existing water supply systems. This will be used to highlight important innovations and alterations that could be made to traditional engineering practice in post-disaster interventions. The resulting research findings will be widely shared with the international humanitarian community. The methodology will be particularly beneficial for analysing any technical intervention, such as sanitation, shelter or energy technologies, carried out in post-disaster situations.

Innovation Phases Description:

  • Recognition: Develop an understanding of prior water supply projects by identifying, documenting and critically evaluating existing practices. Explore the need for a more holistic analysis of the socio-technical systems in Sierra Leone and the beneficiaries ability to respond to technical interventions.
  • Invention: Creation of a survey mechanism, which will combine both qualitative and quantitative methods, to provide an understanding of the impact that technological interventions have in this context.


  • Overview of current research and literature on failure of water supply projects in developing countries, particularly as is relevant to post-disaster interventions.
  • A developed methodology for analysing, in an effective and accurate manner, the impact that previous water supply projects have had, their potential for failure, and the reasons behind the systems that have failed.

Latest Updates

Binary Failure

7 Jun 2012

Since our most recent blog the research team has been primarily field based in some of the more remote regions of Tonkolili, in Sierra Leone.


Identifying Socio-Technical Trends for Rural water supply schemes using Case-based Reasoning (CBR)

14 May 2012

This blog will introduce the fundamental concepts of Case-Based Reasoning (CBR) and why we have chosen to use this method to help identify complex trends in both the social and technical factors that lead to the failure of rural water supply schemes.


Systems Failure

24 Apr 2012

Our research team, from Edinburgh University, have been working since February on analysing failure in water supply systems in Sierra Leone. Before we arrived in Sierra Leone we were already aware that this country had significant problems.


Focus Group Discussions

16 Mar 2012

We have conducted a number of focus group discussions (FGDs) in several villages, previously surveyed. Questions range from what is safe drinking water to what are the responsibilities of the water user committee and their interactions with the community.


When Systems Fail

27 Feb 2012

When water supply systems fail such as wells or boreholes, an entire community can be effected. Water supply system failure is inevitable in areas where upkeep is rare. What is disconcerting about this is that when systems fail, they remain in a perpetual state of failure.


The Beginning: Household and Community Surveys

14 Feb 2012

After roughly ten days of work on the household and community surveys, which included a few test runs, we have begun to carry them out in villages


Starting Out

25 Jan 2012

The HIF grant will fund all field research carried out to determine and develop an innovative methodology for analysing the impact of post-conflict water systems in this district.


Related Resources

Report Water, sanitation & hygiene

Final Report: Innovation in Post-Conflict Water Supply Projects in Sierra Leone

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