The reality is that many people use domestic water services for a variety of productive purposes, including fisheries, livestock, home gardens and small-scale enterprises, and irrigation services as well as domestic needs such as drinking, washing, bathing and sanitation. Likewise, many irrigation systems are used for non-irrigation uses. If these uses are not planned for, the result is often damage to systems and conflicts between users.
People make illegal connections, they destroy or alter physical infrastructure, or put a greater strain on a service than it was intended to support. Taking a MUS approach avoids these negative outcomes while optimising positive ones. In addition, services that support multiple activities can open up more funding streams for operations and maintenance.
Planning for and supporting MUS enables benefits to increase sustainably and often dramatically. For example, in a domestic supply system, making it possible for people to access more water to support livestock, home gardens and small enterprises can significantly boost incomes, as well as nutrition. Work by Winrock International has shown that once basic domestic needs are met (approximately 20 litres per capita per day), each additional litre supplied per capita per day (lpcd) can generate an estimated US$ 0.50–1.00 per year of income. So, for a family of five, increasing water supply from 20 lpcd to 100 lpcd could mean an additional US$ 200–400 per year. Women and the land poor benefit most from multiple use services since they are more likely to engage in income-generating activities in and around the home.
Irrigation water is commonly used for productive uses other than field crops. Studies in Asia by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that more than 50% of the value generated from irrigation systems came from uses other than crop production. Yet few irrigation systems are designed or managed to support such uses. If they were, the value generated from irrigation water would increase.
Of course, the additional water uses supported by upgrades to domestic systems are often not the main source of income. But with better access to more water, people are able to diversify their livelihoods, as case studies in Bolivia, South Africa, Senegal and Kenya have demonstrated, thereby reducing their vulnerability to economic shocks. Multiple-use services that take into account the different water resources available, including opportunities for reuse, can also help communities to become more resilient in the face of climate change.
The MUS pitchdeck explains why it is necessary to invest in MUS and can be downloaded below.