Application for Determining Costs for Programming Sustainably (At What Cost Application)
At What Cost is a tool developed to plan and monitor full life cycle costs for implementing various water and sanitation programs.
At What Cost is a tool developed to plan and monitor full life cycle costs for implementing various water and sanitation programs and technologies. It factors in revenue and expenditure, including operating and minor maintenance expenditure, cost of capital, capital expenditure, and capital maintenance expenditure. The tool is intended to illustrate whether or not a proposed program will be sustainable in the long run.
Much sanitation programming does not accurately reflect long term costs and permanence of a solution for the household and community. The result is that a program might provide a cheaper toilet (to save money for the project) but that toilet only has a useful life of five years instead of a longer lifespan. So overtime the cheaper solution actually turns out to be more costly! Also that solution might not be desirable for the household as it does not address what is actually important to them, such as security, status, comfort and beauty. Designing solutions for what people can afford, instead of designing solutions based on a charity’s budget is one step towards a sustainable sanitation service that can function without an NGO. The At What Cost application will help guide these decisions.
Projects focused on toilet construction are never going to solve the sanitation crisis, precisely because with sanitation it’s not sufficient to build enough toilets for a given population today. Communities grow, some very quickly. The At What Cost application will practically – as it drives a discussion on cost– help change the conversation about sustainability.
The At What Cost application will be a tool for water and sanitation practitioners to plan more effectively for actual costs, permanence of solutions, and understand what it will take from a financial perspective to achieve sustainability. This will in turn start a learning process by which practitioners will need to rethink their programming activities to achieve greater impact. Having the At What Cost data in an application format should also make it easier to share the data across entities and foster greater collaboration to come up with innovative solutions to improve sustainability.