Our little data story

A blog from our India Programme Coordinator who visited one of our NGO Partners, VJNNS, last month. Frank Water is facilitating a research project to understand the wider impact of providing clean water in remote villages in the Eastern Ghats 

The global data debate rages on.  

On one side are those who accuse development professionals of relying too heavily on data- that ‘data ninjas’ are focusing too much on quantitative data, ignoring observational or anecdotal evidence, and becoming narrow and inflexible as a result.

On the other side are those who say that decisions are still made too arbitrarily and we ought to use more data to make better decisions.

Somewhere between the two is FRANK Water’s approach – as illustrated by one of our projects in Andhra Pradesh. I have written about our Gravity fed water supply systems (GFWSS) in an earlier blog. This month, with one of our NGO partners VJNNS, we began measuring the impact that the GFWSs have had in villages connected by these systems 

Why collect data? For one, measuring our impact in one village enables us to work more effectively in the next.

For example, our study has already found that one of the most important changes from the perspective of local people has been the reduction in time spent collecting water. In the case of our project villages before the GFWSS was installed, it would take women around an hour to fetch 4 pots of water.  

They made on an average 3 trips to the water source in a day. This amounts to 3 hours spent per day in fetching water or 90 hours per month or 11 days per month that could be spent working to earn a living. The daily wages for unskilled labor here is Rs.125/ 8 hour workday. A woman therefore loses Rs 1350 every month (Rs 125 per day x 11 days a month). It’s a rough, back of the envelope calculation but it goes some way to revealing why women were so strongly in favour of the GFWSS projects and helps us understand why the community were so generous in their contributing shramdan (voluntary labour) during the construction of GWFS. 

Some projects which were completed more than seven years ago are still functioning efficiently and are maintained very well even after the NGO partner handed over the system to the community and closed the project formally within a year of completion. The community has managed this system for such a long period of time because piped water supply has realized significant savings in terms of time spent in collecting water.

 Besides this, there appear to be several other benefits that are realized by the communities where GWFS are built. To understand and confirm these benefits we have begun to collect data in a few of our villages using both qualitative (storytelling) and quantitative (number counting) methods. 

Interviewing members of the community has revealed a reduced health risk, improved water security and access, improved hygiene practices, improved living conditions among the villagers. 

Photo caption: Flow meters installed on the inlet and outlet pipelines of GFWSS. Credit: Sachin Tiwari  

Photo caption: Flow meters installed on the inlet and outlet pipelines of GFWSS. Credit: Sachin Tiwari  

Newly installed water meters in a few of our GFWSS inlet and outlet pipelines record the flow of water in and out and help us prevent the spring from being over-tapped and ensures it remains sustainable.