Since October 2012 IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre provides a free online course to help plan and budget for sustainable and equitable WASH services, using the life-cycle cost approach. The life-cycle costs approach consists of a framework to collect, analyse, use and monitor costs and service delivery to a specific population in a particular geographical area—not just for a few years but indefinitely.
Life-cycle costs include not only expenditure on constructing new systems but also the cost of maintaining them in the short and long term. Costs for both district- and national-level administration and planning are taken into account, as are the costs of replacing and extending infrastructure. All of these costs taken together form the total cost of providing a sustainable level of service.
Using life-cycle costing can improve the cost-effectiveness of investments and increase the sustainability of WASH services, especially for the poor. The approach has been tested in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Andhra Pradesh (India) and Mozambique.
Why was the course developed?
People expect water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to last. Alongside a global trend of increasing WASH service coverage there is evidence of high rates of system failure, and ‘slippage’, where near-complete coverage is achieved but not sustained. In Andhra Pradesh, for example, 10% to 30% of villages that had achieved open defecation–free status are now seeing a return to open defecation by some residents. There is also evidence that water coverage in some countries is stagnating at around 60-80% due to insufficient focus on recurrent expenditure. Extending services to those that have not yet been served and sustaining existing services requires the right mix of life-cycle costs, such as capital maintenance expenditure and expenditure on direct support to service providers, user groups and users.
The “Costing Sustainable Services” online course was developed to assist governments, NGOs, donors and individuals around to world with applying life-cycle costing in their work and organisation. The online course can be used by sector professionals with little or no experience of life-cycle costing. Participants can gain a basic understanding of life-cycle costing and how the approach can be applied. Completing the course will help users answer the following questions:
•Is my service delivery model sustainable over time?
•Who is paying for which costs over time?
•Which service level does my service delivery model achieve?
About the course
The costing sustainable services online course has three modules:
•Module 1 What is a life-cycle cost approach?; introduces life-cycle costing, its underlying principles and key components.
•Module 2 Using a life-cycle cost approach; gives ideas and tools on how life-cycle costing can be adapted and integrated in the work of many different types of organisations and government institutions.
•Module 3 Analysing life-cycle costs and service levels; explains how life-cycle costs and service levels can be analysed in order for it to be used as part of budgeting and planning of sustainable water and sanitation service delivery.
Each module consists of a number of sessions combining exercises with reading materials. Some sessions include videos and online webinars. There are separate materials for water, sanitation and hygiene. Depending on individual knowledge and interest, participants can choose which sessions, exercises or reading materials are useful.
Each module takes between 8 – 16 hours to complete depending on whether all sessions and exercises are followed for the water, sanitation and hygiene components. Participants have 3 months to complete one module to receive the certificate for successful completion of that module. If participants do not log in for more than 3 months the account will be closed and participants will have to re-register to follow a module and repeat all exercises in order to receive a certificate.
An IRC certificate is available per module. Certificates can be downloaded by a participant after successful completion of each module, including passing a test on the module and filling in an evaluation form. For successful completion of the test participants need to answers at least 8 out of the 10 questions correctly. Tests can be repeated as often as needed.
As it is the first year that this course is running, the course is a beta version and will be finalished with user feedback by the beginning of 2013.
In the online course participants work mainly on their own, but support is available through a question and answer forum, where participants can leave questions and see what other participants have asked (and the answers). IRC staff aim to answer questions in this forum within 48 hours. Participants are also free to leave their own comments and answers in the forum. Interaction with IRC staff and other participants is also possible in various exercises in the course.
Some key points:
•The course is free.
•The course is in English.
•An internet connection is required.
After registering, participants will receive login details and a password to access course material on the preferred starting date of the course. From the starting date participants follow the course at their own pace by logging in and following the module(s) of their choice. We suggest that participant’s follow the 1, 2, 3 order of the modules, but can select any module to start or switch between modules. The course material guides participants through the modules and exercises completing them at their own pace.
For more information about the Costing Sustainable Services” online course contact IRC at
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre