Planning rural water services in Nicaragua: A systems-based analysis of impact factors using graphical modeling

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The success or failure of rural water services in the developing world is a result of numerous factors that interact in a complex set of connections that are difficult to separate and identify. This research effort presented a novel means to empirically reveal the systemic interactions of factors that influence rural water service sustainability in the municipalities of Darío and Terrabona, Nicaragua. To accomplish this, the study employed graphical modeling to build and analyze factor networks. Influential factors were first identified by qualitatively and quantitatively analyzing transcribed interviews from community water committee members. Factor influences were then inferred by graphical modeling to create factor network diagrams that revealed the direct and indirect interaction of factors. Finally, network analysis measures were used to identify “impact factors” based on their relative influence within each factor network. Findings from this study elucidated the systematic nature of such factor interactions in both Darío and Terrabona, and highlighted key areas for programmatic impact on water service sustainability for both municipalities. Specifically, in Darío, the impact areas related to the current importance of water service management by community water committees, while in Terrabona, the impact areas related to the current importance of finances, viable water sources, and community capacity building by external support. Overall, this study presents a rigorous and useful means to identify impact factors as a way to facilitate the thoughtful planning and evaluation of sustainable rural water services in Nicaragua and beyond.

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Environmental Science & Policy



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