The global burden of disease attributable to contaminated drinking water calls for effective strategies for ensuring drinking water quality. To characterize institutional and policy approaches towards water quality management, we compared national and sub-national institutional frameworks for drinking water provision and management in nine developing countries, focusing on roles, responsibilities and capacity for water quality monitoring. Responsibilities for operational and surveillance (compliance) water quality monitoring of formal urban water supplies are typically well defined, with attention placed on both activities. Legal requirements for surveillance monitoring of community and smaller supplies are generally also in place, however, standards for operational monitoring vary considerably between countries. In practice, resources and capacity for consistent operational and surveillance monitoring of rural and informal urban supplies are limited. To improve oversight and management in these settings, we hypothesize that surveillance agencies could increase the use of audit-based water quality data collection from formal urban water suppliers and target the resulting efficiency gains towards increased direct surveillance of rural and informal water supplies. In addition there is a need for capacity building and technology development that supports increased operational monitoring and data reporting from resource-poor settings.
Keywords: institutional arrangements, operational monitoring, surveillance, water quality, water quality testing