Simple, grounded solutions to ensure access to clean water in Sukabumi, Indonesia

Access to safe water and sanitation is a need shared by people regardless of gender, race, and age. To push nations to act towards this universal need, the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG-6) is dedicated to ensuring access to clean water and sanitation. However, in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, access to potable water remains a challenge. reported that at least 27 million Indonesians lack access to safe water while 51 million do not have access to improved sanitation facilities. The growing demand for safe drinking water in Indonesia is exacerbated by the fierce droughts that the country faces more frequently. In 2016, a total of 1,235 villages and 266 districts in Central Java endured clean-water shortages during the dry season. In the same year, three reservoirs in the province dried up; cutting access to water used for irrigation and domestic purposes.

Problems on water access are felt in Sukabumi, a city located off the south coast of Java Island, some 170 km away from Jakarta. Home to more than 321,097 people (2016 State Statistics) Sukabumi is a rapidly growing city pursuing its economic development mainly through fisheries, industries, and coastal tourism.

Sukabumi is home to the Mount Halimun-Salak National Park, a watershed that supplies water to most of the town’s villages. Commercial brands of bottled water source their supply from the mountain springs as well; paying funds that are ultimately used to ensure the park’s sustainability. Despite being near this massive resource, two districts in Sukabumi have experienced great pressure when it comes to accessing clean water.

In Citamiang district, the Local Clean Water Company (PDAM) supplies clean water to most households. However, there are some parts of the community where clean water is scarce; residents have to resort to using water either from the river or pond. This exposes them to various health risks such as diarrhea, E. coli bacteria, and exposure to high levels of iron and sulfur.

Meanwhile, in Cikundul, another district in Sukabumi, while PDAM is able to supply water, some families cannot afford the rising cost of clean water. As such, the disadvantaged population sources their water from the ground, which also exposes them to health risks.

“In 2014, during the long dry season, people experienced problems getting clean water for drinking and domestic use. They had to get water from the river. It was dangerous because the paths were difficult to tread, especially for women and their children. On top of that, the quality of water was never good enough for drinking,” Mr. Asep Zainal, Chairman of Kelompok Swadaya Masyarakat Cimiandiri Heurang (KSM) shared.

Mr. Asep Zainal narrates the importance of the simple water treatment facility in ensuring that communities have access to affordable yet safe drinking water.

KSM is the lead civil society group that worked with ICLEI in assessing Cikundul’s water access problem and helped come up with possible solutions.

Solutions from the ground: The ICLEI ACCCRN Process

Both Cikundul and Citamiang were recipients of the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) Engagement Building Small Grants. The pilot project implemented in both districts aimed to address the growing problems on water access in Sukabumi. Sukabumi is one of 10 participating Indonesian cities in the ACCCRN project, implemented by ICLEI with support from Rockefeller Foundation from 2013 to 2016.

Through the ICLEI – ACCCRN process (IAP), local government officials of Sukabumi, along with community members, the private sector, and other stakeholders assessed perceived climate risks in the context of Sukabumi’s various urban systems.

Through extensive consultations, Cikundul and Citamiang identified strategies that can help them access clean water. The process was conducted with two partner organizations: KSM for Cikundul and the Service Station for Appropriate Technology (Posyantek) for Citamiang. Posyantek works in most sub-districts of Indonesia; assisting communities in coming up with creative innovative solutions to their challenges through the use of technology.

The simple water treatment facility allows communities to harvest rainwater and convert this to safe and affordable water. This facility proved to be helpful especially for families with limited income.

In Cikundul, a Simple Water Treatment Plan (Bahasa: Instalasi Pengolahan Air Sederhana (IPAS)) was installed. The fixture harvests rainwater and treats the collected rainwater to become portable and fit for domestic use. Meanwhile, a similar facility was installed in cooperation with the Board of Jami-Al-Muhajirin Mosque in Citamiang. The facility was affixed on wakaf – a portion of land donated by the mosque.

A steady stream of clean and fresh water

Since the installation of these facilities in both sites, community members felt immediate benefits, primary of which is better access to clean water.

“The response from the community is very good since we have experienced difficulty in getting clean water especially during the dry season,” Mr. Rudi Juansyah, Head of Bappeda (Regional Planning Development Agency) of Sukabumi noted.

Mr. Juansyah narrated that the project was primarily developed to provide water during the dry season. Communities near the rainwater harvesting facility in Citamiang used to source their water from the ground. During the summer months, the supply of groundwater is usually not enough.

Aside from the steady source of fresh water, one of the most notable benefits of the facilities is the reduced cost of water.

Mr. Ahmad Siswanta of the Mosque of Muhajirin in Citamiang explained that “Per gallon, clean water from rainwater management is sold for IDR 5,000 (USD 0.35), while for the factory processed water is sold for IDR 8,000 (USD 0.55) per gallon.”

“This cheaper cost is a great help to the community,” he added.

“Prior to this program, mothers only use clean water from PDAM or buy drinking water from water companies. Once the rainwater harvesting facility was installed, the community members have access to drinking water which is more affordable,” Mrs. Ningsih, a resident of the community shared.

“The price of drinking water is now cheaper. The price per gallon is only IDR 3.000 (USD 0.21). Before, we have to spend IDR 4,000 (USD 0.28) per gallon.”

Mr. Rudi Juansyah, Head of Bappeda (Regional Planning Development Agency), converses with Mrs. Ningsih regarding the benefits that the community reaps from the rainwater harvesting facility.

In Cikundul, the IPAS is able to provide water for at least 80 families and 20 small businesses. While in Citamiang, the steady supply of water has benefitted at least 40 families.

Community’s cooperation towards one goal

Aside from the perceived benefits of having direct access to clean and affordable water, another change felt by both communities is the increased cooperation amongst stakeholders.

Lack of access to clean water has affected most families and called for a solution that required input and effort from everyone. Notably, the religious community in Al-Muhajirin Mosque made a significant contribution not only through the donated land but in terms of funding, manpower, and technical knowledge.

Since the community members of both Citamiang and Cikundul were involved in every stage of the project, a great sense of ownership was instilled upon them; encouraging the residents to ensure efficient maintenance of their respective IPAS.

“The project has encouraged the community to become more independent. It has also inspired participation, as evident in the volunteered labor that the people have freely given. Because of this, we have a sense of ownership and it motivates us to keep the initiative going,” Mr. Agus Haryanto, Head of Cikundul village narrated.

Replication of the IPAS in other parts of Sukabumi is expected to be conducted in the years to come.

Mohammad Muraz, the Mayor of Sukabumi, stated that the two small grants project in Cikundul and Citamiang will serve as a model for similar projects to be installed across Sukabumi.

A resident demonstrates how the facility treats rainwater.

Towards a healthier, more secured future

Residents of Citamiang and Cikundul reported positively on the co-benefits that the IPAS systems have provided their communities. The continued supply of this resource has led to some promising enterprise opportunities for the community.

In Cikundul, the steady supply of water has supported the local cassava cracker industry. The area is noted for producing cassava crackers, a livelihood common to most families. The clean water from the IPAS system enables the business owners to produce healthy and environment-friendly cassava crackers, supporting the economy of Cikundul without increasing pressure to its natural resources.

Ensuring steady water supply to the point that the residents can sell their surplus can be a viable economic opportunity for families as well. In 2017, Tempo reported that Sukabumi is the largest bottled water supplier to Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, and Bekasi, accounting for as much as 75% of the total supply. With continued support and cooperation, Citamiang and Cikundul can potentially tap into the vast market of the bottled water industry.

A steady supply of clean water is one of the requirements for a decent standard of living. Where there was once drought and unsanitary supply of water sprung a well of hope produced by the community’s cooperation and support for one another.


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