Q&A: Water for Waslala

Discussion Forum

PWX members can use this space to discuss elements of the Organization. PWX members can post questions or comments and they will be seen by everybody. Any PWX member can respond to the questions and comments, not just the submitter.

Costs

Posted about 6 years ago

Agua Para la Vida has had a number of contacts with Water for Waslala. And WFW's local partner ADIS has hired in the recent past a graduate from APLV's technical school ETAP.
One area about which I am curious is the low cost reported of your water projects. These are primarily gravity systems and their cost per inhabitant is far lower than ours even though WFW 's access to material has got to be similar to ours. For instance for the recent project Arenas Blancas with 97 direct beneficiaries the cost is reported as #5000 or about $50 per inhabitant. Is this a repair of an existing system? does it include the cost of latrines? does it include salaries of any kind ( in other words is ADIS picking up a piece of the expenses?) Same for El Guapo Jicaral (300 beneficiaries, $22,000 and even Dipina 250 beneficiaries , $22,000.
It woulld help me to see a detailed and complete budget for 1 or 2 of these or similar projects.

I would also like some clarification of the respective roles of WFW-ADIs on one hand and the Waslala Alcaladia ( municipality) in the development of water access in that municipality.

Thank you, Gilles

WfW - a good addition

Posted almost 6 years ago

I don't know WfW closely, but I did recently meet Josh from Waslala and discussed their approach to water projects. I'll be interested to see the answers to Gilles' questions and Gilles has had more contact with them over the years; but from my long conversation with Josh, I have to admit I was impressed with WfW's approach and learning over the years. Certainly, as Josh pointed out to me, there are still learnings to pick up (which was why he reached out to us to chat), but I think they have the right attitude. I'd recommend them for membership.

WfW - a good addition

Posted almost 6 years ago

Hi Rob,

Thanks for your note, and for taking the time to meet with Josh a few months back!

Rob brings up a point that I wanted to build on. We have invested heavily in building partnerships with other organizations in recent years to share our learnings and challenges and incorporate more best practices into our work. Our Waslala staff have visited APLV, El Porvenir, and Water for People sites in Nicaragua over the last two years, and in the US we have had semi-annual calls with a committee of advisors from Water for People, Potters for Peace, UNC Water Institute, and Water.org.

These partnerships have helped us to incorporate water meters and community-level water treatment systems (i.e., sedimentation tanks and drip feeder chlorinators) into the designs for our latest projects. They have also allowed us to refine our approach to KPI collection, water quality testing, tariff setting, and water committee capacity building.

We look forward to deepening such relationships with our peers through PWX, as well as sharing our own lessons learned over the last decade.

Best, Matt

Funding and Why PWX

Posted almost 6 years ago

Hi Matt,

Sorry to get into the conversation late, but been away. A couple of questions.

I looked at your 2012 report and am wondering about your idea of manufacturing ceramic water filters locally. Can you elaborate?

Also, it seems that you have a sizable yearly budget. What are the sources and with this type of budget, why do you want to join Peer Water Exchange? It appears that there was only $250K for projects this round of project submissions.

In general, I have been impressed what I have read about our organization and am in favor or your application.

Alan

Funding and Why PWX

Posted almost 6 years ago

Hi Alan,

Thanks for your note and the questions.

Regarding the local production of ceramic water filters, it's more of an aspiration at this point than a tangible business plan. Right now, we're still in the process of piloting the ceramic filters broadly across the Waslalan population to test for water treatment effectiveness, ease of use, adoption rates, and useful life. We're also looking into a way to pair distribution of the filters with micro-loans to see if we can scale this element of our approach sustainably from a financial standpoint.

If, in a few years, we find that the filters are very effective and well-liked across various Waslalan communities, and that demand is high, we would likely hire a consultant to determine if building a local production facility is feasible from a financial standpoint. The benefit to WfW of having a local facility would be to try and reduce the overall cost of the filters by eliminating the need for transportation between Managua and Waslala. But for it to make sense, we'd need to undertake a detailed demand study to determine if there is enough regional demand for filters to cover the capital and operational costs of the facility.

So, in short, it's an aspiration we have for the future that probably wouldn't occur for at least another five years, if ever.

In terms of our budget, it's important to note that we're in the middle of a growth phase, and thus are looking to increase our Waslala program expenses to $150-200K / year starting in 2014. As such, we are looking for additional sources of revenue to fund this growth, and we're hoping that PWX might provide new revenue opportunities for us.

That said, we're also looking to join PWX for other equally important reasons:
1. Recognition: As a small NGO, we're looking for a way to "get on the map" and become more of a recognized name in our sector
2. Collaboration: We value collaboration with our peers - both in terms of sharing our own lessons learned, and learning from what has worked in peer organizations. We intend to participate fully in the best practices development and sharing that hopefully occurs between PXW members.
3. Credibility: becoming a PWX member will provide us with a stamp of credibility we can use as a lever to help with major gifts fundraising. Again, because we are small and relatively unknown, having this stamp of approval from the WASH sector will hopefully provide instant credibility as we approach new individual donors.

Let me know of any follow-up questions!

Thanks
Matt

Costs

Posted about 6 years ago

Agua Para la Vida has had a number of contacts with Water for Waslala. And WFW's local partner ADIS has hired in the recent past a graduate from APLV's technical school ETAP.
One area about which I am curious is the low cost reported of your water projects. These are primarily gravity systems and their cost per inhabitant is far lower than ours even though WFW 's access to material has got to be similar to ours. For instance for the recent project Arenas Blancas with 97 direct beneficiaries the cost is reported as #5000 or about $50 per inhabitant. Is this a repair of an existing system? does it include the cost of latrines? does it include salaries of any kind ( in other words is ADIS picking up a piece of the expenses?) Same for El Guapo Jicaral (300 beneficiaries, $22,000 and even Dipina 250 beneficiaries , $22,000.
It woulld help me to see a detailed and complete budget for 1 or 2 of these or similar projects.

I would also like some clarification of the respective roles of WFW-ADIs on one hand and the Waslala Alcaladia ( municipality) in the development of water access in that municipality.

Thank you, Gilles

Costs

Posted almost 6 years ago

Hi Gilles,

Thanks for your question, and nice to hear from you again. Note that our responses will be an amalgam from myself and members of our Program Committee, including Jordan Ermilio and Iain Hunt, who I know you have been in touch with in the past.

The likely reason that our costs on the website are lower than that of APLV's projects is that they only include water system materials and the cost of our general contractor. They don't include salaries of our other project staff, simply because we didn't classify them as direct project costs in the past, although we are doing so for future projects. Our past projects also didn't include other cost items that are common with other NGO projects, such as water meters, chlorination systems, or latrines - three items we'll also be adding to future projects (starting in 2014).

See attached for budgets and some design documents for our El Guabo project, which should shine more light on what was and wasn't included in total costs for our past projects.

If helpful, we'll be happy to share a budget for one of our 2014 projects, which will have costs included for labor, water quality testing materials, and other water system components.

Also, in terms of our relationship with ADIS and the Waslala municipal government:

ADIS: The AsociaciĆ³n de Desarrollo Integral y Sostenible (ADIS) administratively and legally supports WfW in Waslala. ADIS a not-for-profit association registered according to the laws of the Republic of Nicaragua, independent of any political or religious affiliation. ADIS' work profile includes the strengthening of local capacities, gender equality, environmental protection, and health. Water for Waslala works through ADIS and its team of six employees specifically dedicated to providing clean drinking water in Waslala.

The Alcaldia: Although we do not formally work under/ through the government (with funds passing through them), we have a collaborative working relationship. We regularly meet with the municipal engineer so that we all share our future plans in order to make sure to complement each other and not duplicate work. Currently, there is a municipal-wide water infrastructure planning process occurring, and our team is part of that process along with municipal actors and any other NGOs working in Waslala.

We have decided to not involve the Waslala municipal government directly in our projects because they are unfortunately a very politically partisan organization that has a polarizing effect in the communities in which we work. We have found that communities prefer that we work independently of the government, and believe that doing so increases the chances of our projects being sustainable over the long term.

Best, Matt

Costs

Posted almost 6 years ago

Gilles et. al,

I have also uploaded a budget for one of our 2014 projects, Ocote Kubali, so you can see how our thinking has progressed in terms of what is now being included in our water systems, and in our project budgets.

Although this budget does not include the cost of all of our staff involved in the project in one way or another, it does include the additional costs listed below that were not a part of past projects:

Project manager cost
System-level chlorination and sedimentation tank
Cost of surveyor to conduct pre and post-construction surveys
Water quality testing
Transport of materials
Water meters
5% operating cost paid to ADIS to administer the project

Also, the third sheet reflects the calculated community counterpart, which is not included in the budget but is a helpful reference to understand what the community is contributing:

Days worked
Wood provided for pila construction
Sand collected in community
Food provided for workers and our team

Hope this helps to illuminate how we're thinking about our future projects.

Best, Matt

Water System Criteria

Posted about 6 years ago

I have similar interests in the design and cost of the water projects that are anticipated to be presented. It is important to understand your design criteria to make fair assessment of your water projects. Would you be able to attach ( or direct us to a site) a completed project with designs , materials lists, costs , and photos? With this information we could fair review.

Water System Criteria

Posted almost 6 years ago

Hi Lynn,

Thanks for your question. We have attached material lists, designs, and costs for our El Guabo project. As I mentioned to Gilles above, our past projects did not include water meters, community-level chlorination systems or latrines, though we will be adding these components to all of our future projects beginning in 2014. We are also working with beneficiaries in our previous projects to discuss potential retrofits including community-level chlorination systems.

You can view photos of our water systems on our website. Some photos that may be of interest:
Storage tank (Dipina project, 2013): http://smu.gs/IzUfVQ
Household tapstand (Arenas Blancas project, 2013): http://smu.gs/1eATkhN
Houeshold tapstand (El Guabo project, 2011): http://smu.gs/1c3rwzv
Spring intake (in construction, Yaro Central, 2012): http://smu.gs/1ce0CbB
River crossing (in construction, Yaro Central, 2012): http://smu.gs/18dNDCo

We're happy to share any other details you need to review our past and future work - just let us know.

Best, Matt

Water System Criteria

Posted almost 6 years ago

Thanks Matt for the files on designs and costs of your projects.

They are very similar to criteria we are using in Guatemala. The designs on the pipe suspension bridges are very good and follow the design criteria we use with " Bridges To Prosperity" . They have a Spanish manual if you would like to contact them on the web.

The costs of projects are well detailed and within the familiar costs we are encountering. Water system materials have gotten very expensive as a result of the cost of oil based materials such as pvc pipe and the fuel costs of making cement and steel.

It appears from your fund raising that you have a very dedicated enthusiastic team working on this element of your projects and are able to keep up with the costs of projects.

The inclusion of latrine projects and hygiene education will make the whole purpose of water systems more effective in raising the level of individual hygiene habits in your focus communities.

Having a well rounded staff in country is a major step in your success. Projects managed from afar an not living the conditions of your recipients do not do well in the long run.

Map and database and updates

Posted almost 6 years ago

Hi Matt,

I have seen the map on your website; could not find any 2011 or 2012 projects. Did i miss something?

How are you tracking your projects? Do you have a database or an excel file?

From your comments above it seems that you are adapting and going back and retrofitting projects. That's great. How are you getting funds for that work?

What's the communication process between the field, Nica office and US office?

How do the field staff send you updates? Do they take photos (your gallery is pretty powerful)?

Regards,
Rajesh

Map and database and updates

Posted almost 6 years ago

Hi Rajesh,

Thanks for your questions - I'll answer them in order:

1. We completed two water projects in 2011, and one in 2012. I uploaded a one-page summary of our projects by year which should be easier to analyze than the map on the website.

Note that one of the 2011 projects was a pilot project in which we distributed ceramic household filters (produced by Potters for Peace) to 85 households throughout the municipality.

2. Our projects are regularly tracked by our Waslala team. We have pre-and post-construction KPI data for each project, detailed budgets, and design/project demographic data that our Waslala team manages and shares with us (most of the data is in Excel).

Our team regularly visits existing systems for continued capacity-building work so they have frequent updates related to system functionality and any challenges that might arise. For example, in September/ October our team visited all existing systems and the website is updated with all current information on system functionality.

3. We are indeed working with leaders of past projects to discuss potential retrofit projects. For these projects, we will rely on unrestricted funding we raise from our individual donors through 1:1 solicitations and our annual fundraising event, a "walk for water" at Villanova University.

4-5. As mentioned, our Nica staff visits the leaders of all previously-completed projects at least once a year to monitor system functionality and status of the community's maintenance fund, and collect KPI data. For other times of the year, leaders from past projects often visit our Nica staff at our Waslala office in town to discuss issues, concerns, etc. We also typically host a workshop once a year in town for the leaders of all communities, which provides us with a good opportunity to touch base as well.

Communication between our team in Nicaragua and the US occurs primarily between our Program Committee Chair, Nora Reynolds, and two staff in Waslala: our Program Director, Junior Gasparini, and our Program Development & Strategic Communications Manager, Josh Dulle. Communication occurs on an almost daily basis via phone to ensure that our US and Nica teams are aligned on progress.

In addition, the Board receives direct progress updates from Josh Dulle, our bilingual staff member, via emails on roughly a bi-weekly basis. Josh's role has several components: (1) facilitate communication between Waslala team and US BoD and donors, (2) content creation and updates about our work to share with stakeholders in the US (BoD, volunteers, donors, etc.) such as photos, blog posts, and videos, and (3) monitoring and evaluation efforts of all existing and future projects.

Many, but not all of our photos are taken by Josh. Other photos have been taken by volunteer photographers that have traveled to Waslala on short-term immersion trips.

Best,
Matt

Map and database and updates

Posted almost 6 years ago

Hi Matt,

Thanks for all your answers. I think you will find a lot of the PWX services (field notes, android, mapping, metrics, ...) all to be of great use.

Sometimes the new smaller organizations start adopting new tools faster! :)

Regards,
Rajesh

Map and database and updates

Posted almost 6 years ago

Yes, we're very much looking forward to learning about these tools and how they might help us to better track and communicate status of our projects!