This paper discusses a financial and institutional solution to the ongoing crisis of poor functionality of rural water sources in less-developed countries in Africa and elsewhere. It describes the outcomes of a learning journey undertaken since 2011 by Whave Solutions, a Ugandan rural water maintenance provider and advocacy body operating in several hundred rural communities working in close partnership with communities, local governments, and the Ministry of Water and Environment. The paper describes the root causes of failed rural water delivery, and describes how these have been addressed through collective action on the ground. The aim is to fulfil Uganda’s national development goals and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.1, building a comprehensive system for rural water functionality. This paper presents evidence of the cost of full functionality assurance, and discusses which tariff modalities and institutional structures are best suited for stable and sustained reliable water supply in future years nationwide. Weak regulation and weak governance are found to be among the barriers preventing these modalities and structures from being established. However, the dominant constraint to progress is found to be the failure of the aid sector to recognize its contribution to weak governance and its failure to take coordinated action to correct this. The paper concludes with specific recommendations for investors in water infrastructure, donors, and aid practitioners.