Models for Implementing Multiple-Use Water Supply Systems for Enhanced Land and Water Productivity, Rural Livelihoods and Gender Equity – Multiple Use Systems (MUS)

Published on 5 August 2010

Research Areas



, , , , , , ,


Start Date: 15 June 2004 | End Date: 1 May 2009



Multiple-use water services (MUS) is an innovative approach to water services. It unlocks new investment opportunities for poverty reduction and gender equity in peri-urban and rural areas. MUS takes people’s multiple water needs as the starting point of planning and design of new systems and upgrades. Universally, water users already use ‘domestic’ systems or ‘irrigation’ systems for multiple purposes, whether legal or not. By planning for these multiple uses, many more benefits from investments in infrastructure can be realized: health, freedom from domestic chores, food and income and gender equity.

The CPWF’s MUS project, supported by the Challenge Program on Water and Food (CP28) pioneered the implementation of MUS and scaling up of MUS at intermediate, national and global levels. Global partners were IWMI International Water Management Institute (lead institution), IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre and IDE International Development Enterprise. Learning alliances were established with 150 governments and other institutions in the basins of the Andes (Bolivia and Colombia), Indus-Ganges (India, Nepal), Limpopo (South Africa and Zimbabwe), Mekong (Thailand), and Nile (Ethiopia). Global advocacy in collaboration with the MUS Group ensured that MUS obtained a place in the policy agendas of professional networks, such as the World Water Forums, and of international governmental and non-governmental water agencies, rural development and financing organizations. Project partners included local water user movements, NGOs, the domestic sub-sector, the irrigation sub-sector, and local government. From these diverse backgrounds, project partners innovated two successful MUS models: homestead-scale MUS and community-scale MUS.

Homestead-scale MUS: 50 – 200 litres per capita per day

Whenever water is available near homes and on adjoining lands, or ‘homesteads’, people use such water for domestic and many productive uses. This empirical relationship between water uses and availability is depicted in the ‘multiple-use water ladder’. The policy recommendation is to enable poor people ‘to climb the water ladder’ and to provide 50-200 liters per capita per day. Out of this, 3-5 liters per capita per day should be safe for drinking. Income generated enable repayment of most multiple-use systems investments within three years. Homestead-scale MUS is especially beneficial for women, who are disproportionately responsible for domestic water supplies and tend to have a stronger say over homestead production. The land-poor, who only have access to homestead land, also benefit.

Community-scale MUS: local-level integrated water resource management

Here MUS takes communities as entry point of water services. It holistically considers their multiple water uses (domestic, irrigation, animal watering, tree-growing, fisheries, enterprises, ceremonies, environment) from multiple water sources (rain, surface water, groundwater, wetlands) at multiple sites (homesteads, fields, open access). This integrated water resource management at the local level is (potentially) considerably more cost-effective and sustainable than single-use water services.

Research Partners


, , , , ,

2 Responses to “Models for Implementing Multiple-Use Water Supply Systems for Enhanced Land and Water Productivity, Rural Livelihoods and Gender Equity – Multiple Use Systems (MUS)”

  1. How to get the hard copy of the research document.

Ask a Question

You must be logged in to post a comment.