[advanced_iframe securitykey=”da39a3ee5e6b4b0d3255bfef95601890afd80709″ src=”″ width=”356″ height=”200″ scrolling=”yes”]

Conventionally, water services in developing countries are planned with single objectives in mind: water for crop irrigation, water for livestock, water for domestic use and so on. However, the reality in poor communities is that individual water sources are used for a range of activities. A single pump or reservoir may serve for washing, drinking, cattle, crops and more.

Larger infrastructure projects, such as major dams, have almost always encompassed a multiple-user model. This has been viewed as being essential to their cost-effectiveness. At the local level, however, this approach has been neglected. This creates opportunities for water service providers. If they invest in local infrastructure which generates more uses and livelihood benefits, then the cost-effectiveness of these investments will also be enhanced.

Multiple-use water Services (MUS) is a participatory approach that takes the many domestic and productive needs of water users as the starting point of planning, designing and delivering water services.
The MUS approach encompasses new infrastructure development and rehabilitation, as well as governance.
MUS offers three main advantages compared to single-use water service delivery models:

  1. Multi-purpose infrastructure leads to more cost-effective investment, more health and livelihood benefits and a broader basis for cost-recovery.
  2. Participatory approaches for demand-driven services and scheme sustainability.
  3. Enhanced environmental sustainability by combining the use and reuse of multiple conjunctive sources for multiple uses.

More sustainable livelihoods
The MUS approach concurrently improves health, food security and income; “More MDGs per drop,” as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) puts it. Livelihood benefits tend to be more durable because participatory planning empowers communities to articulate their own priorities. This enhances ownership and willingness to pay for services. Moreover, environmental sustainability is higher because MUS recognizes that people use and reuse water sources in ways that optimize the efficient development and management of natural resources in their local environment. Local knowledge and coping strategies for mitigating seasonal and annual climatic variability by combining multiple water sources is at the heart of community’s environmental resilience. Such efficiency and resilience will become ever more important as the impacts of climate change become more tangible.

Different entry points for MUS 
Each water sub-sector can benefit from moving towards MUS. Different entry points have emerged over the past decade. In a ‘domestic plus’ approach, the priority is for domestic water uses near to or at homesteads. Increasing the service levels allows households to use water for livestock, horticulture or small-scale enterprises. The income generated enhances the ability to pay and scheme sustainability. 

In a ‘productive plus’ approach, irrigation or livestock watering is the starting point, but other facilities are added. These could be special outlets or canals, troughs, washing places or bridges which improve the access to water for livestock, domestic needs and small-scale manufacturing.