Adapting life-cycle thinking tools to evaluate project sustainability in international water and sanitation development work

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The United Nations Millennium Development Goals have called issues of water and sanitation to the fore-front of international development efforts. Engineers and other development workers are answering this call in increasing numbers. In order to achieve these goals it is necessary to overcome the historically low sustainability rates of development projects. This paper presents a logical framework for identifying and analyzing the factors that affect sustainable development of water and sanitation projects. It identifies five sustainability factors that are common in development literature and the policies of international aid organizations: (1) sociocultural respect, (2) community participation, (3) political cohesion, (4) economic sustainability, and (5) environmental sustainability. A life-cycle thinking approach is used to assess how project sustainability can be improved throughout the project life. Five life stages are identified to represent the life of a development project: (1) needs assessment, (2) conceptual designs and feasibility, (3) design and action planning, (4) implementation, and (5) operation and maintenance. Using the defined sustainability factors and life-cycle stages, an assessment matrix is developed. A series of guidelines for each matrix element are given for scoring the sustainability of a project. The guidelines are derived from best practice approaches to effective international development. The proposed sustainability matrix can be used as a guide for project planning or as an evaluation system to identify strengths and weaknesses in project approaches. © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

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Environmental Engineering Science