This paper assess the literature on small water enterprises -- water delivery operations that predominantly provide water at the community level. A research agenda is recommended to advance knowledge on effective SWE service.
- Small water enterprises (SWEs) are active in urban, peri-urban, and rural areas across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
- Benefits of SWEs include: no upfront connection fees; demand-driven and flexible to local conditions; and service to large populations without high costs of utility infrastructure.
- Disadvantages of SWEs include: higher charges per unit of volume; lack of regulation and quality monitoring; potential for conflict with local utilities; and potential for extortion.
- The World Bank has taken a lead on research on SWEs, supporting over one third of the 120 documents assessed during this review. Asian Development Bank and U.K.'s DFID are also active.
- SWE research is not well documented in independent, peer-reviewed journals.
- There is a need for rigorous evidence on the effectiveness of SWE models, including quality and affordability of water provided, effect on health, and business models.