Approximately 20 million people or 1/3 of the rural population of Brazil have no access to basic services such as safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. The National Health Foundation reported that in 2007 only 28% of the rural population was connected to a drinking water supply and the connection to a sewage system was 22%.
Rural water supply and sanitation made no progress in Brazil in the last 30 years, not only as a result of limited funding and political will, but also due to inefficiency in the resources allocation, and absence of regulations and long term planning. In general, due to financial costs and operational complexity, Brazilian state water companies offer their services to urban areas and do not include rural and small communities as objects of their business.
The case describes the ongoing experience of the State of Ceará in implementing a model of participatory management to supply rural communities with drinking water and sanitation facilities.
The model, called Integrated Rural Water Supply and Sanitation System (SISAR), consists of a federation of community associations created specifically with the purpose of self-managing the local systems, with technical support from the State’s Water and Sanitation Company (CAGECE).
Each SISAR unit is legally constituted as a non-profit oriented civil association of private rights that manages the rural water supply and sanitation systems operated by the affiliated community associations. It administers its own proprietary goods with is either received from the government or private donors and other revenues include the money collected through the rates charged for its services.
• User participation is the most important factor of sustainability of rural water supply and sanitation systems. Effective participation is seen as a means of assuring that cultural, environmental and socio-economic characteristics of each community are properly addressed.
• It was experienced that this system is difficult to implement with less than fifty families and achieving self-sustainability.
• Participatory mechanism leads to more investments in rural water supply and sanitation and commitment of the public sector with the rural systems management.
• The partnership between CAGECE and SISAR has led to increased social responsibility there by contributing to environmental preservation.