Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

MS in Environmental Engr. (M.S.E.V.)

Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

James Mihelcic, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mauricio Arias, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Katherine Alfredo, Ph.D.


Assessment Tools, Community Management, Disinfection, Drinking Water, Monitoring and Evaluation, Sustainable Development Goals


Over the last four decades significant progress has been made on providing people access to improved drinking water. The Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) estimates that 6.7 billion people have access to at least basic drinking water services. In spite of this great achievement 785 million people still lack even basic services and eighty percent of which live in rural areas. To further complicate matters, those with access to services experience interruptions or non-functionality for handpumps and piped system long before the intended design life of the system. In the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé province in Panama there is very little information on the sustainability and water quality of rural water systems after they have been built.

This research presents an extensive literature review of the historical approaches of the rural water sector, focusing on the evolution of the community-based management approach, the paradigm shift from prioritizing infrastructure to long-term Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) service delivery, the importance of monitoring, and an evaluation of sustainability assessment tools and presents an experimental plan to assess the sustainability and water quality of rural indigenous communities in the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé, Panama. Few studies have focused on the role external support providers affect the sustainability and water quality of community-managed gravity-fed rural water systems. Additionally, this study proposes a plan to assess communities that have received external support from an outside organization such as the Ministry of Health or an international organization using the Rural Water and Sanitation

Information System (SIASAR, in Spanish) assessment tool and Ct values for a measure of the effectiveness of chlorine residual.

This thesis contributes an experimental design for studying the factors that influence a water committee’s ability to properly disinfect their water. This study builds off previous research in the rural water sector and is intended to help Panama and similar countries achieve Sustainable Development Goal Target 6.1, universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water by 2030.