Abstract

Many countries around the world now face the dual challenges of closing the remaining gaps in access to drinking water in rural areas while further addressing the issues of equity, quality, and sustainability outlined in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our research explores the key factors for sustainability in rural drinking water services in Chile, an important example not only due to its success in rural water access but also because of the new directions the country is taking to achieve the SDGs. Drawing on results from a Delphi study of Chilean rural water experts, we discuss the most important issues identified, including water availability and investment in community water organizations, as well as disagreement among experts, particularly around roles of private service providers and the national government. We leverage these results to assess Law 20.998 passed in 2017, which aims to address problematic variation in rural water services by introducing a stronger role for central government and conferring more responsibility on rural water organizations. The work presents insights for challenges countries closer to universal coverage will face as they work towards the SDGs and provides an analysis of the new rural drinking water governance landscape in Chile.

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