Operational and Minor Maintenance Expenditure (OpEx)
Operations and minor maintenance expenditure is the cost of routine minor maintenance needed to keep water and sanitation systems running at the designed performance. It includes recurrent, regular and on-going expenditure on labour, fuel, chemicals, materials, or purchases of bulk water. Operational expenditure also includes household coping costs by which households spend money to achieve a satisfactory level of service; i.e. cleaning products for sanitary facilities, energy costs, etc.
Operations and minor maintenance expenditure does not include major repairs or renewals of water or sanitation infrastructure. This is considered expenditure on capital maintenance (CapManEx).
Benchmarks capital maintenance expenditure
Based on research from WASHCost, the minimum operations and minor maintenance expenditure to provide a basic level of water service with a borehole and handpump (at 2011 prices) range from US$ 0.5 per person to just over US$ 1 per person (see table 1). For all piped schemes, including mechanised boreholes and piped supplies, the costs range from US$ 0.5 to just over US$ 5 per person.
Table 1. Cost ranges for operational and minor maintenance expenditure [min-max] in US$ 2011 per person, per year for a basic level of service.
|Borehole and handpump||0.5 - 1|
|All piped schemes||0.5 - 5|
Source: IRC, 2012
The costs as shown in table 1 (above) are based on the provision of a basic level of water service, as defined by WASHCost. A basic service implies that the following criteria have been realised by the majority of the population in the service area: People access a minimum of 20 litres per person per day, of acceptable quality (judged by user perception and country standards) from an improved source which functions at least 350 days a year without a serious breakdown, spending no more than 30 minutes per day per round trip (including waiting time).
Based on research from WASHCost, the minimum operations and minor maintenance expenditure required to provide a basic level of sanitation service ranges from US$ 0.5 to just over US$ 1 per person, for a Traditional Pit Latrine and a Ventilated Pit Latrine (VIP) between US$ 1 – 4 (2011 prices) (see table 2).
Table 2. Cost ranges for operational and minor maintenance expenditure [min-max] in US$ 2011 per person, per year for a basic level of service.
|Traditional Pit Latrine with an impermeable slab (often made from local materials)||0.5 – 1|
|Ventilated Pit Latrine||1 - 4|
|Pour Flush or septic tank latrines||1 - 4|
Source: IRC, 2012
The costs as shown in table 2 (above) are based on the provision of a basic level of sanitation service, as defined by WASHCost. A basic sanitation service implies that all the following criteria have been realised by the majority of the population in the service area: At least some members of the household use a latrine with an impermeable slab at the house, in the compound or shared with neighbours. The latrine is clean even if it may require high user effort for pit emptying and other long-term maintenance. The disposal of sludge is safe and the use of the latrine does not result in problematic environmental impact.
When using these benchmarks (see table 1 and 2) local factors must be taken into account. For example, the lower cost ranges were generally, but not always found in India, while cost data from Latin America tends to be higher than the maximum ranges, but usually relates to higher service levels.
For both water and sanitation:
- If expenditure is lower than the minimum range, then there is higher risk of reduced service levels or long-term failure. A reduced service level means that one or more service criteria (e.g. access, quantity, use, quality and reliability) are not achieved. Service criteria can vary according to country context and norms.
- In the WASHCost research, use of latrines and reliability of services tend to be lower when recurrent expenditure on things such as operation is low.
- If expenditure is higher than the maximum range, an affordability check (for both users and providers) might be required to ensure long-term sustainability.
- If a basic level of service is being delivered and expenditure is outside the cost benchmarks, then there may be context-specific explanations; such as the service is in a densely-populated area with economies of scale, or, conversely, the area is difficult or remote to reach.
Operational expenditure on water services in Ghana
WASHCost Ghana (Nyarko et al., 2011a) measured operational and minor maintenance expenditure by using the actual recorded expenditure from 53 water point-systems. Actual operational expenditure at current cost (2009 year) ranges from US$ 0 to 102 per facility per year, with a mean of US $ 40 per year (median US$ 21) (see table 1).
Table 2. Operations and minor maintenance cost of rural water point-systems
|Cost per facility per year (US$)|
(*)The upper quartile (Q3) is the median of the upper half of the data set.
Source: Nyarko et al., 2011a, 5
Of the 53 systems, 12 reported spending no money on operational expenditure at all (Nyarko, et al., 2011a). Annual operational costs per person based on actual (observed) population are from US$ 0 to US$0.72, with a mean US$ 0.15 (median US$ 0.07). It can reasonably be assumed that the generally low expenditure reported on operations and minor maintenance is linked to the high observed levels of non-functioning systems (29%) (for more information see Nyarko et al., 2011b)
- Gibson, J., 2010. Operation and maintenance costs of rural water supply schemes in South Africa: paper presented at the IRC symposium Pumps, Pipes and Promises: Costs, Finances and Accountability for Sustainable WASH Services in The Hague, The Netherlands from 16 - 18 November 2010. The Hague, The Netherlands: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.
- IRC, 2012. Providing a basic level of water and sanitation services that last: cost benchmarks. (WASHCost infosheet; 1). The Hague, The Netherlands: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.
- Information sheet provides an overview of the minimum benchmarks for costing sustainable basic services in developing countries. The benchmarks have been derived from the WASHCost project dataset and the best available cost data from other organisations all over the world. The benchmarks are useful for planning, assessing sustainability from a cost perspective and for monitoring value for money.
- Fonseca, C. et al., 2011. Life-cycle costs approach: costing sustainable services. (WASHCost briefing note; 1a). The Hague, The Netherlands: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.
- Nyarko, K.B. et al., 2011a. Life-cycle costs in Ghana: post-construction costs of water point-systems. (WASHCost briefing note Ghana; 2). The Hague, The Netherlands: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.
- Nyarko, K.B. et al., 2011b. Life-cycle costs in Ghana: functionality of rural water systems in Ghana. (WASHCost briefing note Ghana; 6). The Hague, The Netherlands: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.
- The WASHCost project was a five-year action research programme, running from 2008 to 2012. The WASHCost team gathered information related to the costs of providing water, sanitation, and hygiene services for an entire life-cycle of a service - from implementation all the way to post-construction. The WASHCost programme was led by IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre with several partners to collect data in the rural and peri-urban areas of Burkina Faso, Ghana, India, and Mozambique. For more information see WASHCost
- The Costing Sustainable Services online course was developed to assist governments, NGOs, donors and individuals to plan and budget for sustainable and equitable WASH services, using a life-cycle cost approach. The Life-cycle cost approach is a methodology for costing sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene service delivery and comparing the costs to the level of service received by users. For more information see: WASHCost Online Training
- WASHCost data sets provide access to the validated life-cycle cost and service level information collected in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Andhra Pradesh (India), and Mozambique between 2009 2010. The data has been collated from a number of sources including infrastructure surveys, detailed household surveys and range of specific research undertaken with stakeholders in each country. The data sets are available here
- Triple-S (Sustainable Services at Scale) is a six-year, multi-country learning initiative to improve water supply to the rural poor. It is led by IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. The initiative is currently operating in Ghana and Uganda. Lessons learned from work in countries feeds up to the international level where Triple-S is promoting a re-appraisal of how development assistance to the rural water supply sector is designed and implemented. For more information see: Water Services That Last