In 1992, at a meeting in Kenya, it was agreed that there was a need to create a global network of handpump experts who could make the most of the great work done by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank (WSP) in the 1980s. The humble handpump was seen as cornerstone of improving rural water supplies by making clean groundwater available to millions of people.
From small beginnings, UNICEF, Skat, the Swiss Agency for Development & Cooperation (SDC) and others developed the Handpump Technology Network and broadened its scope until in 2004 it was agreed, under the leadership of WSP, to change the name to Rural Water Supply Network.
Today the network has over 10,000 members in over 150 countries, continuing the mission of helping rural water supply practitioners from NGOs, governments, companies and development partners to learn from each other and work together. The scope has moved far beyond handpump technology to encompass a more holistic and integrated approach to improving rural water services as part of the wider Sustainable Development Goals and Human Rights.
UNICEF, SDC, Skat and the World Bank still play a central role in the network, joined by African Development Bank, IRC WASH and WaterAid, and our open, collaborative approach has brought in many partners from all over world and from international organisations, governments, non-governmental organisations, development banks, civil society, private sector and universities.
UN International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (IDWSSD). Intensive development of public domain handpumps occurs.
International Handpump Workshop in Kakamega (Kenya) mandates the formation of HTN, the “Handpump Technology Network”. Peter Wurzel (UNICEF Pakistan) is chosen to chair the new HTN steering committee (4 persons); Erich Baumann (SKAT, later Skat Foundation) establishes an executive secretariat for the new network.
Chair of the HTN steering committee passes Rupert Talbot (UNICEF India), reflecting a continued network focus on Asia.
HTN Workshop in Mangochi, Malawi. Over 150 participants from 40 countries endorse the need for (and activities of) the network. HTN envisages a broader remit and revises the name to HTN “Network for Cost effective Technologies in Water Supply”. The steering committee is expanded to 16 members.
HTN Forum in Hyderabad, India (200 delegates, 38 countries). Retaining a global membership, members endorse the new African focus.
In a Rope Pump promotion drive, HTN and SDC jointly organise the First International Rope Pump Policy Workshop in Managua, Nicaragua (66 delegates, 22 countries).
A new vision for the network is drafted – activities would be broadened to encompass more rural water issues while maintaining traditional network activities. The first regional chapter of HTN is established by a dedicated group of members in South Africa.
HTN Forum in Durban, South Africa (250 delegates, 37 countries) endorsed the relevance of the network and the new, broader thematic vision and identity including three flagship activities. At the Forum, a new name is also mooted (RWSN – Rural Water Supply Network) and an action plan 2003 - 2005 is drafted.
Piers Cross (WSP Africa) becomes RWSN Chairman
The network is officially renamed RWSN (Rural Water Supply Network). Theme coordinators employed for the three flagship activities. The Steering Committee unanimously re-confirms Skat Foundation as the global secretariat for at least three more years
The theme coordinator workshop held in February in Kampala, Uganda defines the strategies for the three flagship activities and the working budgets.
RWSN Forum Accra, Ghana (290 delegates, 37 countries), with the theme: “Scaling up Local Entrepreneurship in Rural Water Supply”. Thematic foci were endorsed.
RWSN Steering Committee Chair passes to Clarissa Brocklehurst (UNICEF, New York)
Erich Baumann retires from the RWSN Secretariat and succeeded by Dr Kerstin Danert (Skat Foundation)
IRC (now IRC WASH) joins the Steering Committee
Code of Practice for Cost Effective Boreholes launched.
RWSN Steering Committee Chair passes to Professor Richard Carter (WaterAid, later independent)
RWSN Forum Kampala, Uganda (480 delegates, 54 countries, 240 organisations), with the theme "Myths of the Past, Visions for the Future"
New RWSN Strategy (2012-2014 launched)
RWSN membership re-launched using Dgroups with around 1,200 members by June.
The World Bank joins the RWSN Steering Committee
First series of webinars, organised with WSP.
First e-discussion, on the Human Right to Water, organised with WaterAid and the UN Special Rapporteur.
"Member Organisation" grade introduced
Ton Schouten (IRC WASH) becomes RWSN Chair
New RWSN Strategy (2015-2017 launched)
Individual membership exceeds 7,000 in March
Ton Schouten passes away.
7th RWSN Forum held in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire
Kelly Ann Naylor (UNICEF) becomes Chair; Sean Furey (Skat) becomes Secretariat Director.
Piers Cross passes away.
External Evaluation of RWSN and development of 2018-2023 strategy.
Membership reaches 10,000
Launch of new strategy and RWSN website