This paper presents a qualitative assessment of the institutional arrangements for public water supply to rural communities of the Enugu State, Nigeria, in order to isolate strategies that can enhance institutional strengthening and improve service delivery in the area. The data used were obtained through questionnaire surveys, field observations and from records in the states agencies responsible for public water supplies. The data generated were analyzed through the use of descriptive statistical tools. The results of the study revealed the strengths and weaknesses of the institutional arrangements currently in use in the area. The principal and subsidiary agencies for public water supply have clear policies, functions, roles, responsibilities and programmes for rural water supplies; however, the rural population’s access to potable water remains low in the area due largely to a variety of factors such as low investments, high recurrent and maintenance costs, over-aged water infrastructures, lack of political will, non-availability of fund, inadequate technology and institutional weaknesses. Over 85.6% of the water supply schemes have failed completely or partially. Only 14.4% of the schemes are functional; 83.3% of non-functional schemes are suffering from major breakdowns; 86.78% of the population is not served and 18 schemes have exceeded their estimated life span of 20 years. The implications of these findings were x-rayed. The way forward is to reform and strengthen the current institutional arrangements, adopt new management strategies, rehabilitate dysfunctional infrastructure, improve coverage and distribute water infrastructure equitably.
Key words: Institutional strengthening, institutional arrangements, reforms, rural communities, rural water supply, Nigeria.
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