In 2008 Arghyam embarked on a year-long programme to gather data about and raise awareness on several water and sanitation issues. These included water quality and quantity, how water was stored, access to water, open defecation and menstrual hygiene. We called the programme ASHWAS, for ‘A Survey of Household Water and Sanitation’, and it ran into 2009.
When the survey concluded, Arghyam’s partner NGOs had visited 17,200 rural households in 28 districts in Karnataka. ASHWAS was instrumental in creating awareness on water and sanitation issues and introduced a participatory approach to deal with these issues. In addition, separate information was collected from Gram Panchayat officials and village elders.
The survey encouraged villagers to participate not only to provide their views on the water and sanitation issues but also to test the quality of water being used from different sources. Water quality testing kits were provided which quickly delivered information about water quality indicators such as nitrates, fluoride and bacteriological contamination.
The findings from ASHWAS provide quantitative feedback on user perceptions of services, information on status, quality, adequacy, distribution, reliability and efficiency of water and sanitation services. The report also highlighted the health and hygiene status and governance issues in light of water and sanitation.
On November 17, 2009 Arghyam received the Bronze Excellence in Information Integrity (EII) Award in non profit category for the ASHWAS project at a function in Illinois, USA.