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Developing a Communication Strategy for Water - UNICEF

I work with UNICEF’s India Country Office as Water Specialist in the Child’s Environment Programme. We are assisting the government to develop a communications strategy for behaviour change regarding household drinking water. Most institutions seem to produce products to address what are the perceived issues, and do not research in-depth the real reasons for the problem. The end result is that funds are utilised on products and promotion, but there is no rigorous method of analysing effectiveness.

I am interested to know if any agency has taken the broader approach of developing a communications strategy for water, which the above studies form a part. A communications strategy would begin with development of a baseline in the field, definition of communication objectives, selection of mode(s) of communication, development of creative messages, testing of media, develop materials, implementation and then review, monitor and evaluate.

I would like the Water Community members to share the following information:

a.       What other agencies have developed communications strategies for drinking water, what has been the process they followed and the results?

b.       Can members share the strategies and material already developed?

c.       Please provide inputs on the process proposed above and ways to make it more effective.

Kindly provide your responses specifically to the three questions posed. They will help us in streamlining a communications strategy for the drinking water sector.


Dara Johnston,

UNICEF, New Delhi



1. Dear Dara

Dear Dara Johnston,



Recently UNESCO carried out a Water Advocacy Campaign. The Chief Minister of Delhi inaugurated the Kids Rally, which was a part of the campaign. Such a communication strategy is good but in addition to the rally these children need to be trained/educated to conserve water/make best use of water. These children will further educate and spread the message through word of mouth to family and friends. Five thousand children participated in this rally but the impact of this rally is dependent on the audience. However, by training and educating these children the impact will be much more long lasting. Please find the details of the event at (PDF; Size: 120KB)



With best regards,



Abhishek Mendiratta

Jupiter Knowledge Management and Innovative Concepts Private Limited (JKMIC)

New Delhi


Dear Sir,

In my opinion children are the best educators. I have visited many schools regarding lectures on Water Quality and water management. The experience was very positive. Even at my home I have educated my children ( 7 & 5 years old) from the very begining on how to use water safely, how to conserve it and now they are well behaved in this regard. If some mistake is done by elders they point it out immediatly.

UNICEF Should focus on School children if the behaviour change regarding household drinking water is to be developed in the society. In this process the help of volunteers and interested NGO's would prove very helpful.


Amit Kr. Singh,
Govt. of Haryana,
Public Health Engg. Department,
Water Testing Lab,Karnal-132001(haryana)

3. Dear Dara,   I would suggest

Dear Dara,


I would suggest that you should contact the Tarun Bharat Sangh, who has evolved their successful strategy after interacting with village elders and benefiting from their wisdom. They have applied the evolved appropriate technology in case of several villages, using this mode of communication. I have described this and a few other successful cases in the chapter 'Hope Oases' in my book 'Water Harvesting and Sustainable Supply in India' published by Center for Environment Education', jointly with Rawat publications.




Ramesh Athavale

Formerly Director Grade Scientist

National Geophysical Research Institute


4. Effective Communication Strategy on Water

Dear Sir.

With reference to your request in connection with Communication Strategy on water use, I would like to put forward few points as follows.

                The communication strategy for behavioural change in connection with household Drinking Water should be based on two basic points:-

  1. Water stress

  2. Water safety against contamination


At first, a proper baseline survey will be necessary to reveal the main issues of Habit and Behaviour on water use in a specific area / region. Such baseline survey can be conducted by engaging properly trained data collectors from local CBO / NGO / field level Govt. officials etc.


Then the Communication Objectives should be drawn up based on different issues – like –

--- In case of water stress, more importance should be on minimising the loss of water, reuse option, alternate sources, Rain Water Harvesting etc. along with the water & health linkages and source protection.


--- In case water safety against contamination, more importance should be on microbiological contamination with a focus on the water & health linkage and source protection.


Based on the objectives, the communication materials should be designed with due importance on mass communication and most importantly, the themes of such materials must be region / community specific.


The process of implementation of the action plan based on the communication strategy should always target all sections of the people and specially the women and children. Such action plan should invariably consider the following :-

  1. Continued hammering in a long term approach till habit formation is assured.

  2. Blanket approach to cover all sections of people through inter personal communication as well as mass media.

  3. Time to time Monitoring of health indicators

  4. Reorientation of different approaches

  5. Third partly evaluation.


For carrying out grass root level communication activities, a CBO / NGO / female oriented organization etc. may perhaps be much more result oriented. Sometimes a small resource group of local people, who are convergent with its importance, may also prove to be quite effective in ensuring behavioural change in villages. The implementation may also focus on involving a community based facilitator ( e.g. ASHA worker under NRHM ) for this purpose.

Thanking you and wishing your success to develop an effective Communication Stategy on water.

Nripendra Kumar Sarma

Public Health Engineering Department, Assam



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