Location of Repository

Mapping for Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) in Ethiopia

By Alan MacDonald, Brighid O Dochartaigh and Kathi Welle


In this working paper we highlight ways in which mapping approaches can help Ethiopia achieve the\ud Universal Access Plan for water supply and strengthen links between water and sanitation service\ud delivery and pro-poor growth. The paper is based on experiences of using mapping approaches as\ud part of the RiPPLE (Research-inspired Policy and Practice Learning in Ethiopia and the Nile Region)\ud project, a five year Research Programme Consortium that aims to meet the country’s water supply\ud and sanitation challenges by supporting evidence-based learning in the sector. Our main premise is\ud that:\ud The regular collection, organisation and use of spatial data on water availability, access,demand and\ud use at all levels makes for more effective, sustainable, transparent and accountable WASH. Mapping\ud is a useful approach for organising and using this spatial information for planning, analysis, advocacy,\ud implementation and monitoring of WASH services.\ud The first part of the paper sets out a conceptual framework for mapping. Mapping is more than just\ud providing colourful pictures to brighten reports and offices – it is about collecting and using spatial\ud data and information to provide the best available evidence to support decisions at all stages in\ud projects and programmes. Within Ethiopia, there is growing evidence that maps can be an important\ud part of the process of turning raw data into useful information and practical knowledge.\ud There is great diversity in the types of maps and mapping approaches that can help to improve\ud WASH. The main different uses for maps are: data analysis (particularly interdisciplinary analysis);\ud advocacy; planning; implementation and monitoring. For a map to be effective, the use to which the\ud map is to be put must be clear before making the map. Maps for different uses may require different\ud data, combined in different ways, and displayed at different scales. Within this working paper we\ud describe various examples from Ethiopia (mostly developed as part of RiPPLE) where maps have\ud been used for each of these five purposes.\ud Despite the obvious benefits of using maps within the WASH sector in Ethiopia, maps are not widely\ud used. Perhaps the main reason is uncertainty about how maps can be used to inform decisions, what\ud type of map is fit for purpose, and the process of gathering information to develop maps. We trust\ud that the framework developed in this paper helps to bring clarity about when maps can be of\ud assistance, and how to develop fit for purpose approaches. As discussed, maps are only part of the\ud process of turning data into knowledge or even wisdom. They form the useful step of turning data\ud into more readily interpreted information. However, to truly increase knowledge, they must be used.\ud The second part of the paper highlights the practical challenges that exist when using mapping to\ud support decision making in the WASH sector. In particular the challenges of data availability, data\ud accessibility, poor data management and the capacity required to make maps and manage data.\ud There is a great appetite for mapping in Ethiopia, but appropriate capacity must first be built before\ud maps can be used routinely and widely by different WASH stakeholders. .\ud The paper concludes by summarising the steps needed to integrate mapping in a WASH programme:\ud 1. Decide whether a map is the best tool for the job, and whether the purpose is planning,\ud advocacy, implementation, analysis or monitoring.\ud 2. Carry out a careful analysis of data requirements and whether the data are available, or need to\ud be collected from the field. Identify who will be involved in the production and use of the map; who will be developing the\ud map (often this will mean building the GIS); who will be deep users of the map (able to\ud manipulate or add data to the map or GIS); who will be shallow users (able to use and interpret\ud the data); and who will be collecting and generating the data on which the map will be used.\ud 4. Collect data wisely. Careful planning of data collection activities – e.g. water scheme surveys –\ud will ensure the most useful data is collected.\ud 5. Facilitate communication between users, developers and data collectors. All should be clear on\ud the purpose of mapping and their role in the process

Publisher: British Geological Survey
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:13350

Suggested articles



  1. (2000). Current trends and future challenges in groundwater vulnerability assessment using overlay and index methods’, doi
  2. (2005). Developing Groundwater: a guide for rural water supply. Practical Action:
  3. (1989). From data to wisdom’,
  4. (2008). Mapping Groundwater Potential: A Guide for GIS Developers’, Guides produced for WaterAid Ethiopia and RiPPLE, available on the RiPPLE website at http://www.rippleethiopia.org/documents/info/20081203-guide-for-planners.
  5. (2007). Mapping: Spatial thinking. Using Mapping to support WASH
  6. (2007). RiPPLE Mapping Visit to Benishangul-Gumuz,
  7. (2008). UN-water global annual assessment of sanitation and drinkingwater’,
  8. (2007). WaterAid Learning for Advocacy and Good Practice: Water and sanitation mapping: a synthesis of findings. A WaterAid Report. London: WaterAid. Contact Simret Yasabu, RiPPLE Media and Communications Officer t:

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.