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Before yesterday4. Cross-cutting

Water supply & diarrhoea – latest systematic review and economic implications

July 11th 2018 at 08:49
By: IanRoss

An update to the WHO-led systematic review of the ‘Impact of drinking water, sanitation and handwashing with soap on childhood diarrhoeal disease’ by Wolf et al. (2018) was published in TMIH in May.

I re-read it last week with a water supply hat on, and was interested to see how they’ve improved on the 2014 version. The main difference, apart from including studies recently completed, is that they’ve updated the structure of the meta-regression to allow for separate results for “piped water, higher quality” and “continuous piped water”. This means there’s additional comparisons to be made (with more relevance for SDG6 “safely managed” definitions).

As background, their meta-regression approach allows estimation of service level transitions that have not been directly observed in studies. This builds on ‘network meta-analysis’, a technique increasingly being used in economic evaluations of health interventions where there are no head-to-head trials between options.

Below is my visualisation of the key results (building on the diagrams of the 2014 review’s results in this WHO publication). The numbers are percentage reductions in diarrhoea morbidity risk associated with each transition – explanation below the figure.

wolf et al* / ** see note at bottom of post

I made this based on table 3 of Wolf et al. 2018, calculating % reduction = 1 – risk ratio. In my view, the transitions most likely to happen in practice, as a result of investments, are the incremental ones. Therefore, I have put these in bold blue. Those transitions less likely are in bold back, and those fairly unlikely are in italics. By “unlikely”, I mean that those people remaining with unimproved water are now predominantly in rural areas, where the direct transition to a safely managed water supply (meeting SDG criteria for both quality and continuity) is unlikely to be affordable in many settings. This reduction (75%), which the authors estimated indirectly, would appear to be the reduction maximally achievable with water supply. Some more notes are at the bottom of this post.

What should we make of these results? I would make two observations, and then two arguments based on the economic implications.

  1. There is good evidence that improving people’s water supplies can reduce diarrhoea, which is among the top three contributors to the all-age disease burden amongst the two quintiles of countries with the lowest human development. For the transitions in the figure previously reported in the 2014 review, the only change is that the point estimate for improved off-plot to piped on-plot has fallen from 14% to 13%.
  2. The reduction varies by level of service attained. Piped water reduces diarrhoeal morbidity more than off-plot supplies, when provided at high quality and continuity. The continuity effect most likely happens via a direct increase in quality, though also via the fact that people are less likely to use secondary sources and improper storage.

What does this mean for the economics of water supply provision, specifically the comparison of investment options?

  1. There is an equity/efficiency trade-off to be made in investment prioritisation. Improving water quality in existing piped supplies has the largest single incremental effect (68%), and there are hundreds of millions of people in urban areas of developing countries using piped services which are not safely managed. Investments in this area are therefore important. However, any improvement in service level for populations using unimproved supplies should arguably be the highest priority on equity grounds, even if to an improved off-plot supply which has only an 11% reduction. Firstly, these populations are most likely to concentrated in rural areas where mortality risk from diarrhoea is highest. Furthermore, in such populations the 11% reduction is likely to be applied to a number of annual diarrhoea cases per capita which is higher than in most urban areas, where people also live closer to health services. Decisions obviously also take place not only on the effects side of the equation, but the cost side too.
  2. Broader benefits should also be taken into consideration. Time savings are often associated with a move from unimproved to off-plot improved supplies (and again in a move from there to on-plot piped). These have an economic value. Water quantity increases associated with a move to on-plot supplies decrease the opportunity cost of using water for handwashing, meaning it is more likely to happen. While improved continuity has a much smaller incremental impact (17%) than improved water quality (68%), improvements in continuity reduce wasted time and money invested in coping strategies and the use of secondary sources. These results are also based on a small number of studies (see below). In short, any decision should be based on a lot more than relative risk reductions.

Decision-makers are rarely faced with simple choices of ‘urban versus rural’, ‘pipes versus handpumps’, or ‘quality versus continuity’. The factors above are all built into the calculus of local government agencies and Ministries of Water when they make their investment plans. I would argue that the principle of “first a basic service for all” should be factored into any such decisions.

Notes

  • The bold blue figures are the ones for which we have studies with a direct comparison (though studies also exist comparing unimproved and piped) – see table 2 in the paper.
  • The asterisks denote that transitions to “piped, higher quality” rely on one study, and to “continuous supply” on two studies (against 6, 7 and 11 studies for other key transitions). So, these should be interpreted with caution.
  • I left out the results for point-of-use filters with safe storage to avoid cluttering the diagram, but the reductions for these are 48% (on an unimproved source). POU chlorination has limited impact after blinding is accounted for.
  • These are point estimates. Some of the upper bound 95% confidence intervals for risk ratios in table 3 are higher than 1, i.e. the result is not statistically significant.

washeconomics

wolf et al

First ICT4WASH Newsletter, and Course Announcement!

October 12th 2017 at 14:01
First ICT4WASH Newsletter, and Course Announcement!
View this email in your browser
Levyne Otieno installs a solar-powered wireless data logger that transmits water flow information to the utility.

Welcome to the first ICT4WASH Newsletter!


Dear ICT4WASH Members and Friends,

ICT4WASH is a community of individuals and organizations interested in the application of technology in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector.  The community emerged from a group of like-minded individuals interested in expanding international cooperation and capacity building around ICT in water and sanitation related activities, strategies and programs.

Members of the community connect, share, collaborate and learn through online and in-person networking and training workshops and events.

This newsletter will come out on occasion to share announcements on these activities, updates on member projects and initiatives, funding opportunities, and recent articles and publications of interest to the community.

If you would like to share news or resources with the rest of the community, simply reply to this email or forward them to info@ict4wash.com, and we’ll feature them in the next newsletter.

Also, don’t forget to join our Facebook group, and follow us on Twitter!

A cyble sensor sends meter readings to the data logger above for wireless data transmission.

Course Announcement!

ICT4WASH102 is a highly-interactive one-month eLearning course on ICT for Water Service Providers and other WASH sector stakeholders.

The course first launched in mid-2017 with 4 facilitators, 9 guest experts, and 50 participants from 16 countries.  With such positive results, organizers decided to run the course again from November 6 – December 1 with new guest experts and participants from around the world!

Managers and staff of Water Service Providers (WSPs), humanitarian organizations, non-profits, NGOs, government, and the private sector are invited to join the course which includes dynamic self-guided content, case studies, discussion forums, technology demos and practical exercises.  Participants test and use (and even develop!) mobile and web-based solutions, including mobile data collection apps, cloud-based databases, and custom and off-the-shelf mobile and geospatial solutions available on the market.

The course also features live and interactive guest expert presentations and Q&As with leading water and sanitation specialists, researchers, and ICT solutions providers.

Please share the news with colleagues and friends who might be interested!

ICT4WASH102 Course Page!
Recent Articles and Publications
 
ICT antiques at the University of Cape Town Centre in ICT for Development
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First ICT4WASH Newsletter, and Course Announcement!

October 16th 2017 at 12:00
First ICT4WASH Newsletter, and Course Announcement!
View this email in your browser
Levyne Otieno installs a solar-powered wireless data logger that transmits water flow information to the utility.

Welcome to the first ICT4WASH Newsletter!


Dear ICT4WASH Members and Friends,

ICT4WASH is a community of individuals and organizations interested in the application of technology in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector.  The community emerged from a group of like-minded individuals interested in expanding international cooperation and capacity building around ICT in water and sanitation related activities, strategies and programs.

Members of the community connect, share, collaborate and learn through online and in-person networking and training workshops and events.

This newsletter will come out on occasion to share announcements on these activities, updates on member projects and initiatives, funding opportunities, and recent articles and publications of interest to the community.

If you would like to share news or resources with the rest of the community, simply reply to this email or forward them to info@ict4wash.com, and we’ll feature them in the next newsletter.

Also, don’t forget to join our Facebook group, and follow us on Twitter!

A cyble sensor sends meter readings to the data logger above for wireless data transmission.

Course Announcement!

ICT4WASH102 is a highly-interactive one-month eLearning course on ICT for Water Service Providers and other WASH sector stakeholders.

The course first launched in mid-2017 with 4 facilitators, 9 guest experts, and 50 participants from 16 countries.  With such positive results, organizers decided to run the course again from November 6 – December 1 with new guest experts and participants from around the world!

Managers and staff of Water Service Providers (WSPs), humanitarian organizations, non-profits, NGOs, government, and the private sector are invited to join the course which includes dynamic self-guided content, case studies, discussion forums, technology demos and practical exercises.  Participants test and use (and even develop!) mobile and web-based solutions, including mobile data collection apps, cloud-based databases, and custom and off-the-shelf mobile and geospatial solutions available on the market.

The course also features live and interactive guest expert presentations and Q&As with leading water and sanitation specialists, researchers, and ICT solutions providers.

Please share the news with colleagues and friends who might be interested!

ICT4WASH102 Course Page!
Recent Articles and Publications
 
ICT antiques at the University of Cape Town Centre in ICT for Development
Join the ICT4WASH Facebook group, or follow us on Twitter by clicking the links below!
Copyright © *2017* ICT4WASH, All rights reserved.

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ICT4WASH · 75 Harrington Street · Cape Town, Western Cape 8001 · South Africa

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📢 ICT4WASH102 eLearning Course Application Deadline Tomorrow! 🎓⌛

October 30th 2017 at 12:32
📢 ICT4WASH102 eLearning Course Application Deadline Tomorrow! 🎓⌛
View this email in your browser

ICT4WASH102 Deadline Reminder!

 

Hi ICT4WASH Folks!

This is a friendly reminder that the deadline to apply for ICT4WASH102: ICT for Water Service Providers has been extended to tomorrow (Tuesday, October 31st).  The one-month course will run from November 6th through December 1st. 

ICT4WASH102 is a highly-interactive online eLearning course on how ICT (mobiles, IoT/M2M, smart metering, GIS, mobile payments, etc.) can be harnessed to reduce non-revenue water (NRW), and improve services provision, customer satisfaction, revenue collection, finances, and asset management.

Managers and staff from utilities, humanitarian organizations, non-profits, NGOs, government, and the private sector are all welcome to apply!

So far we have participants from Tanzania, Philippines, Zambia, Bangladesh, Canada, Kenya, Niger, Cambodia, India, United States, Malawi, Mali, Yemen, United Kingdom, Colombia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone!


Invitations will be sent out by the end of the week, and selected participants will be able to enter the platform for Orientation to start a fun mobile data collection activity and scavenger hunt.

The application only takes a minute and can be done here:

ICT4WASH102 Course Application

 


If you would like to subscribe to the ICT4WASH Newsletter, click here to sign up, or navigate here:

http://eepurl.com/c66vj1

To include your ICT-related project updates, articles, publications, events, or other news in our next newsletter, please send them to:

info@ict4wash.com


 
Join the ICT4WASH Facebook group, or follow us on Twitter by clicking the links below!
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ICT4WASH · 75 Harrington Street · Cape Town, Western Cape 8001 · South Africa

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What do we know about urban sanitation costs? (a review of Daudey, 2017)

February 15th 2018 at 11:27
By: IanRoss

A review paper (open access) on the costs of urban sanitation came out last year. Authored by Loïc Daudey (now of AFD but then a consultant for WSUP) it surveys the literature on lifecycle costs of full chain chain systems in Africa and Asia. I found it very useful for my purposes so thought I’d write a quick review.

The paper focuses on cost *ratios* between different sanitation systems analysed within the same study.  It’s a smart approach which avoids the pitfalls of comparing absolute costs across diverse contexts, which rarely sheds much light on things as there are so many determinants of costs. That’s the useful thing about one paper it reviews, Dodane et al. (2012) – also open access and the best study in this field – which compares a sewerage system to an FSM system in Dakar, Senegal. Crucially, the comparison is an area of the city where both are operating, thereby minimising contextual effects. More on that paper another time.

Daudey’s lit. review finds that conventional sewer systems are the most expensive solution, followed by a tie between ‘septic tank & FSM’ solutions and simplified sewerage, and finally various ‘pit & FSM’ solutions. He concludes that ST & FSM comes out more expensive than simplified sewerage, but that doesn’t seem to be supported by the results. See below the key figure with some annotations of my own, including red boxes to emphasise where the median is (the black dashes), and some analysis. It’s a neat way to present the results – each stack of datapoints is the ratio between the first and second technology type in the respective X-axis label. My beef with the conclusion above is that since the median for ‘ST & FSM’ versus ‘simplified sewer’ is more or less 1, that means there’s little between them. Sure, the mean would be higher due to the outlier where the ratio is 4, but arguably the median is a better measure of central tendency for this kind of data.

Daudey1

Another key point stands out of the figure – there is a huge range of cost ratios for conventional sewerage vs ST & FSM – seven datapoints ranging from 1:1 up to almost 5:1. That rams the point home that context matters – sewerage is often but not always more expensive. Daudey has a nice table on cost determinants – my impression from working in a few cities and talking to engineers is that population density and topography are likely to be the most important, but I’m not aware of research that has gone into depth on this (please msg me if you know of any!).

I think the policy Q here is a three-way debate between conventional sewerage V simplified sewerage V ST & FSM. Yes pit latrines are important in many places and will continue to be important (especially in places with limited water for flushing), but few cities will be prioritising them for expansion in master plans. So, as I argued in this other blog , while conventional and simplified sewerage need to be a big part of the picture, the population numbers mean that FSM-based solutions will be with us for some time. And what Daudey’s review shows is that we shouldn’t necessarily be under the impression that FSM-based solutions are always cheaper than sewerage. Context is key.

Finally, then, a bit of the critique of the paper (other than the point above that one key conclusion is weakly supported by the findings).

1.He could have applied a more structured approach to study quality ratings. This is  common in systematic reviews, see e..g. Appendix S5 of this key WASH/diarrhoea review (Wolf et al 2014). The rating process is implicit rather than explicit – maybe it would have been better to score studies and only including the very strongest in a sub-set of ratio analysis, or maybe colour-code the strongest studies in the figure above.

2. Related to that, the review process could have been made more transparent through using something like a PRISMA diagram. It’s fine in many circumstances not to actually do a systematic review, but it’s not hard to be transparent about what was actually done (which still may be very systematic). Stick it in “supplementary material” if you don’t have the space.

3. There could have been more detailed examples relating to the key findings, (e.g. the life-cycle cost ratios) and relegated to “supplementary material” some of the stuff that was inconclusive e.g. on OpEx.

4. He could have contacted some of the authors of studies when things weren’t clear. There is some valid criticism in the paper of a study I was involved in in Dhaka, Bangladesh, but that was a wide-ranging 120pp report and we only had space for 6pp on the costing part (with some huge caveats on data quality) . There is loads of underlying material and we could have answered some of his Qs if he’d emailed us. The same is probably true for other studies where it’s said that things aren’t clear.

5. Minor point, but there could been more on the effects side. Sure, that was outside the scope of the paper to address it in detail. But considering costs on their own isn’t necessarily that illuminating for a decision-maker. Some of these service levels are associated with different disease effects, and different non-health benefits to households and different types of public goods. There could have been a bit more emphasis on how the effects side should be a key part of any decision.

Notwithstanding all these points, I found it a very useful paper that I’ll surely be dipping in and out of in the next few years as I try to move forward some work on urban sanitation costs myself.

Overall, then, what do we know about urban sanitation costs? My answer would be “not enough”. Luckily, there are plenty of people now working on this. Leeds are doing their CACTUS project, and WSUP are about to contract some consultants to do some work on costing and willingness to payAguatuya are also reportedly working on some kind of tool. So fingers crossed that in a couple of years time we’ll know a lot more! I’ll aim to write another blog in a few weeks about how we can better capture cost data that organisations are generating anyway, without much additional effort.

 

 

washeconomics

Daudey1

Determinants of urban sanitation costs – ‘willingness to connect’ and scale effects

February 22nd 2018 at 10:23
By: IanRoss

The Daudey 2017 paper (open access) I reviewed in this post has a useful table (p.7) of 9  determinants of urban sanitation costs. I would tend to group them more simply into three headings as below – I won’t go into these more here as the table in the paper is good.

1. Technology: technology type, level of service (e.g. shared or not)

2. Input prices: labour, materials, energy,

3. Geography: population density, topography, soil condition, distance to treatment

However, I would also add a fourth set of determinants which Daudey doesn’t include (or are implicit), namely broader economic ones. Each in turn is discussed in this blog.

4. Economics. willingness and ability to pay, macroeconomy and business envt.

For sewer networks in particular, an oft-forgotten determinant of medium- to long-term per capita costs is willingness and ability to pay. Or rather, willingness to connect. I underline per capita above because many networks operate below capacity, spreading fixed costs of trunk lines and treatment plants over a smaller number of connections than initially planned. Even though the overall CapEx doesn’t change much, the cost per capita is driven up by the fact that there are fewer users (capita…).

This is demonstrated in several of Guy Hutton’s East Asia studies under the Economics of Sanitation Initiative. For example, in their Cambodian study, only about 20% of targeted households were actually connected to the sewerage system. This meant that while the “ideal” scenario had a cost per private latrine with sewer connection was US$ 5,263, in the “actual” scenario it was US$ 17,537 at the current connection rate. This ‘willingness to connect’ issue is something the World Bank have explored elsewhere – see here.

Willingness to connect could either stem from (i) people possibly being keen to connect but not affording the connection fee (ability to pay, ATP), or (ii) able to pay but still not wanting to connect as they don’t perceive the benefits (to them as a private citizen) to be greater than costs (willingness to pay, WTP). In most cases, social benefits from a sewer system should be greater than social costs if everyone connects, or the system would have been unlikely to be approved.*

In theory this problem of higher than expected per capita costs happens with non-networked systems. However, the key difference is that they are more easily scaled up or down. Here’s an FSM example, quite basic, to keep things simple – market failures mean it is unlikely to happen quite this way in reality: Emptying services are privately provided and the market supplies Y vacuum trucks if demand is presently X. When demand rises to 2X (and this is perceived to be stable), providers are incentivised by rising prices (invisible hand etc.) and will accordingly invest in more trucks. Supply then  rises to 2Y or similar. While excess capacity is still possible, it is less likely to occur than with a sewer system that must necessarily be designed for the maximum connected population expected within a 20-30 year time horizon, i.e, some anticipated demand of anything between 10X-40X. A related aspect is that the FSM system is that isolated failure of components may not have big repercussions – e.g. a vacuum truck being out of service reduces FSM service supply marginally, whereas a pumping station being out of service can reduce sewerage services dramatically.

However, an FSM-based system clearly still has the same scale / time horizon issue for the treatment part of the chain – i.e. you need to design a FSTP for maximum projected demand. So,  there may well be excess capacity there in the short-to-medium-term. But that does not matter as much if it is a simple treatment technology with low running costs, as compared to a sewer system which requires a minimum of energy to run at all, regardless of wastewater volumes.

Considering the second part of my #4 bullet back at the start, the macroeconomic situation and business environment can be seen as more distal determinants of the input prices under #2. This is nicely demonstrated by EAWAG’s report on costing on-site sanitation – Ulrich et al 2016 – which includes a useful figure (pasted below) on ‘cost factors’ (ovals in the below) and how these influence material and labour costs.

Prices of materials are determined by many things, including taxes, exchange rates, trade barriers, competition, regulation etc. and the broader “business environment”. For example, if a land-locked country is importing key materials and customs/ports are inefficient, that will drive up costs. Some of this is implicit in Daudey’s table under input prices. Likewise for labour prices, the competitiveness of the broader labour market, and associated regulation, will strongly determine labour costs. So will other macro-economic factors like unemployment (not straightforward in LMICs) and inflation.

In conclusion, many, many factors determine per capita costs of urban sanitation. This is why it is quite hard to compare costs across countries. Other sectors such as health also face this issue. Accordingly, systematic reviews of economic evaluations in health tend to tabulate and compare results, stating contextual factors, rather than doing a meta-analysis (as would be done for health interventions where a more uniform estimate might be expected across contexts).

ulrich_determinants

 

*This disconnect between private and social benefits occurs because sanitation has public good characteristics. If discharging fecal waste untreated incurs no costs/fines (as is the case in Dhaka for example, where most septic tanks discharge direct to drains), then society pays for the consequences of that  negative externality.

washeconomics

ulrich_determinants

💧 ICT4WASH Newsletter, and New Course Announcement! 📢

March 13th 2018 at 11:23
💧 ICT4WASH Newsletter, and New Course Announcement! 📢
View this email in your browser
Communications.  The 'C' in 'ICT4WASH'.  This low-cost wireless access point creates a local hotspot, and communicates with antennas that transmit a wifi signal over long distances.  This creates a wireless mesh network which can be used for both communications and monitoring of services.

Welcome to the first ICT4WASH Newsletter of 2018!


The ICT4WASH Community emerged in 2017 as a platform for international cooperation and capacity-building between water and sanitation-related organizations and individuals in over 18 countries.  

Since then we have developed online eLearning courses, a newsletter, facebook group and have over 1100 people in our network from 34 countries

Many have reached out to with us with fantastic ideas on what ICT4WASH should offer in the coming year and beyond. More courses, more discussions and webinars, more information on ICT-related projects around the world....

Do you have 2 minutes to give us your thoughts as well? If so, please fill out this quick (seriously, very quick) survey!!!

Best Regards,

The ICT4WASH Team

2-Minute ICT4WASH Survey
Here a utility field team receives the daily list of repairs to be done from the Technical Manager.  The jobs are marked as complete throughout the day, and updated on an online dashboard.

New Course Announcement!

We are very excited to announce the launch of the brand new course:
 

 ICT4WASH310 - Mobile Money Payments for Utility Service Providers

The GSMA and Wakoma Incorporated have teamed up to develop this 3-week eLearning course based on the GSMA's Mobile Money Payment Toolkit.

Course Dates: April 9th-27th

This course was built to support utility service providers in deploying mobile money payment solutions.  It provides guidance on key questions around implementation of a mobile money platform, including when and how to approach integration, making the business case, as well as general considerations around legal requirements, customer experience and education.

All case studies, research and funding for the development and implementation of this course were provided by the GSMA. The course is free to attend for all participants.

Click the button below to apply for a spot while there's still space!

Apply Here!
Recent and relevant articles, publications, reports:
Here is a list of recent resources and webinar recordings organized by RWSN partners (sent from Sean Furey):
Please remember that if you would like to share news or resources with the rest of the community, simply reply to this email or forward them to info@ict4wash.com, and we’ll feature them in the next newsletter. You can also post them on the ICT4WASH Facebook group!
An ICT graveyard at a utility that has swapped out dataloggers for cheaper mobile phones with far more functionality.

A listing of 2018 WASH conferences, from Dan Campbell at the USAID Water Team:


MARCH

APRIL

MAY

  • May 28 – Menstrual Hygiene Day – Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day) is a global platform that brings together non-profits, government agencies, the private sector, the media and individuals to promote Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).

JULY

AUGUST

OCTOBER

NOVEMBER

Join our ICT4WASH Facebook group, follow us on Twitter or check out the course catalog!:
Sign up for this newsletter here
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Incremental benefits from increases in sanitation service level

April 15th 2018 at 12:57
By: IanRoss

The Indus valley civilisation (c.2,000 BCE) coupled on-plot water supply from wells with the first known sewers. However, it was the Minoans (also c.2,000 BCE) who were the first to have piped water systems – I marvelled at the clay pipes and stone sewers at Knossos on Crete. The Minoans understood that piped water on demand provided a better service than carrying it in jars. Their piped systems are likely to have cost more than alternatives, especially in a slave-owning society where labour was “cheap”/free. But the richer households of Knossos were willing to pay for that higher level of service.

Turning to modern day sanitation, a high level of service such as a sewer connection is going to cost more than an unimproved pit latrine, but also provide more benefits. By extension, each movement up the rungs of the sanitation ladder has incremental costs and incremental benefits. Note that ‘incremental’ is different from ‘marginal’ – in welfare economics marginal benefit is strictly speaking the additional satisfaction or “utility” we receive from an additional unit of a good or service (e.g. from an additional litre of water). Incremental benefit, however, can refer to any change in the output of interest.

It was thinking about this, and playing with the cost data in Hutton & Varughese’s 2016 report on SDG costs, which led me to produce the below chart. It aims to visualise which incremental benefits are associated with the incremental cost of an increase in sanitation service level. For example, the movement from open defecation to a private but unimproved pit latrine is associated with time savings and ideally some privacy and security too (depending on the superstructure). This movement has a fairly small annualised life-cycle cost per household, which is even lower if the latrine is shared with other households. Achieving such a service level increase might be the objective of many CLTS programmes.

The bars are ‘annualised life-cycle costs per household’ of that option (comprising hardware/software CapEx, OpEx and CapManEx). The coloured text qualitatively describes possible incremental benefits of moving up to that rung on the ladder, from the previous.

Figure 1: Incremental benefits of moving up the sanitation ladder, alongside costs of different levels of sanitation service (average for Sub-Saharan Africa)

costs_per_service_level

A similar logic applies to the other increases in service level. Moving from an unimproved pit to an improved-but-shared system (“limited” in SDG terms) can bring health benefits in the right circumstances, as well as some ‘wellbeing benefits beyond health’ such as privacy, dignity, security and comfort. However, many factors will determine whether these benefits are realised, including consistency of use, cleanliness of the facility, the sanitation practices of the rest of the community, and many more. For the move to ‘basic’ services, there is evidence for higher benefits over ‘limited’ services but it is mixed – no space to go into that here. Finally, the move to safely managed services (whether non-networked with FSM or networked sewerage) is where significant health benefits community-wide should be seen, through the removal of negative externalities once a high enough proportion of people are at that service level.

The cost data comes from Hutton & Varughese 2016 – the World Bank has helpfully published the dataset here. I used their raw data for urban areas for four technology options, reported in annualised per capita life-cycle costs: (i) cost of any pit latrine, (ii) cost of a septic tank system, (iii) incremental cost of septic tank system with FSM, and (iv) incremental cost of sewerage with treatment. Since the latter two are incremental costs, I added them to the cost of a septic system to get the total cost. I calculated the average for Sub-Saharan African countries, and then used assumptions as follows: I assumed a household size of 5 to get to per household costs, and an assumption of 3 households sharing to get to the shared estimates. Finally, an unimproved pit was assumed to cost 25% of an improved pit.

The figure above represents a simplification of reality, since all benefits rely on contextual factors – note the ‘likelihood’ framing in the figure. Around 1,000 people building and using improved pit latrines is likely to have a bigger health effect in a village of 1,200 people than in a city of 1 million, depending on the baseline situation. Similarly, a new borehole is likely to  have more benefits in a village where everybody drinks from the river, than in a village where most people already have piped water.

Furthermore, there are other economic benefits from different levels of service, such as avoided healthcare costs and time wasted in sickness or caregiving, or the potential value of resource reuse. Nonetheless, I think the figure represents a useful way to think about what we get for our money when we invest in higher levels of service.

Has someone else visualised incremental costs/benefits before, like this or in a different way (I couldn’t find anything)?

What would you improve about the figure? Do comment below.

 

washeconomics

costs_per_service_level

Sanitation’s share of water sector aid is falling

May 10th 2018 at 09:45
By: IanRoss

I went to an interesting event at LSHTM last night run by Countdown 2030, on tracking aid flows to track global aid flows to reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH). Their dataset is here. Yet another reminder that the health sector is way ahead of the WASH sector on so many analytical questions, but also that they face many of the same problems.

For example, the four (!) different methods for tracking RMNCH flows all use, at best, the “long description” on the OECD’s creditor reporting system (CRS), in which donors report aid flows. In my experience these can often have as illuminating descriptions as “the WASH project”, even for multi-million dollar disbursements. Delving deeper into project documents underlying the headline figures, in order to allocate between sub-sectors / areas, is only possible for national-level analyses, and is tedious and hard to automate.

Last night’s event took me back to work I did at WaterAid in 2008 as part of advocacy towards establishing what is now Sanitation and Water for All (SWA). At that time, I became rather too acquainted with the CRS, being the lowly RA crunching the numbers for this report. Many of our observations still stand for WASH, but also for RMNCH. It was depressing to hear research presented last night that showed aid effectiveness has actually gone backwards on many counts since 2010/11. Five countries had >30 donors providing aid to RMNCH – such fragmentation involves huge duplication and unnecessary administration for government ministries.

Going back to WASH, at that time of our 2008 analysis, the OECD didn’t have separate reporting codes for sanitation and water, so it was not possible to see what was going on for sanitation specifically. One results of the advocacy around SWA and the “international year of sanitation” that year was that the OECD instituted separate codes for reporting from 2010 onwards.

So, on the bus journey back to Oxford I decided to check back what had happened since, within the water sector as a whole. See the graph below, which necessitated a few methods assumptions summarised below this post. For transparency, here’s the XLS. The results show that the overall share of water sector aid allocated to sanitation has been slowly and steadily falling over the past 5-6 years, while that for water supply has been increasing.

washaid

Other categories have stayed more or less the same. Sanitation’s share has been falling from around the high 20s in 2011 to the low 20s in 2016. It would take some more detailed analysis to look at what is causing this (which donors, which recipients). I did google for this analysis but nobody seems to have done it that I can find (though see re: GLAAS below) – if I missed something, please point it out in the comments.

Note that this is in constant US$ / real terms, i.e. inflation is accounted for in the figures, and that these are disbursement data from all donors to “developing countries” as defined by the OECD. They are also for ODA, so excludes anything that isn’t within the DAC definition (e.g. Gates foundation, which is sizeable).

The 2017 GLAAS report (p.30) has a figure related to this, pasted below. The right-hand panel has a 65/35 split between water/sanitation (when I do the 2015 split for the sanitation and water codes I get 68/32, a minor niggle probably resulting from which donors they included or some minor methods difference). GLAAS 2017 was on financing, so also has a lot more analysis on different aspects of aid flows and government WASH funding. I would argue that it’s only when more countries are producing National WASH Accounts, using the TrackFin methodology or similar, that we’re really going to know what’s going on with financial flows at the national level, from all sources, which is far more important.

glaas_san_aid

In conclusion, the fact that sanitation’s share of water sector ODA is falling should be cause for concern. We don’t want the momentum built up after the international year of sanitation to be lost. Someone with more time than me should look into what’s behind this trend, and which donors/recipients are driving it, so that advocates can try to ensure that the share doesn’t fall further.
Methods points:

DAC purpose codes for 2016 are here. In the figure, the “WASH” category up to 2009 comprises six codes: two which are WASH combined (‘WASH – large systems’, ‘WASH – basic’,) and four which are separated by sector (‘Water – large systems’, ‘Sanitation – large systems’, ‘Water – basic’ and ‘Sanitation – basic’). Under “WRM” I grouped the codes for water resources conservation and river basin development. “Other” comprises codes for waste management and WASH education & training.

The key assumption is as follows: up to 2009, all water supply and sanitation aid is grouped under WASH (grey in the figure). From 2010 I used the newly-disaggregated codes to separate out sanitation (light blue) from water (yellow). However, even in 2016 there was still more aid under the combined WASH codes than under the separate sanitation and water codes. So the key assumption is that, where data are disaggregated between sanitation and water, the proportion of those values in that year can be applied to the WASH codes which are not disaggregated.

washeconomics

washaid

glaas_san_aid

Categorisation of shared sanitation – some city-wide data using one approach

June 13th 2018 at 06:10
By: IanRoss

There has been a fair amount of debate on the role of shared sanitation in urban settings recently, see e.g. this comment piece from various stakeholders, this paper (plus others) from Sheillah Simiyu and this one from Marieke Heijnen. Also, WSUP recently issued an RFP for multi-country research on shared sanitation. In my own little corner of the sector, I’m working on a costing and cost-effectiveness study of the WSUP shared sanitation intervention in Maputo.

There are many types of shared sanitation – a toilet (or toilet block) can be shared amongst 2-3 families on a compound, among 20-30 identified families in a small area, or among all-comers willing to pay the entrance fee per use. A few years ago Adrien Mazeau did some work on ways of categorising the many different ways we can cut shared sanitation, ending up with a detailed typology (p.23). The categorisations are by location, access to whom, relationship of users, ownership, management, operation and payments.

A recent conversation on this issue made me look back at the data we collected under the World Bank five-city FSM study in 2014-16 (summary report here). Some useful data tables didn’t make it into the city reports (they were already 120pp long…). Below is a graph that didn’t make the cut. It shows sample survey data which are city-wide representative, collected in 2014-15 – more on the sampling in each city report. The variable shown is the latrine “usually used”, based on a simple sharing typology more or less the same as that suggested by the 2017 editorial referenced above:

  1. Household private (on-plot)
  2. Household shared (on-plot)
  3. Communal – pay per period (off-plot)
  4. Public – pay per use (off-plot)

Therefore, this sets aside issues of improved/unimproved (let alone safely managed), to zoom in on whether the toilet is on/off plot and the payment arrangement.

santype5city

* In Dhaka, there is also data representative of ‘slum’ areas (as defined by the Bangladesh Centre of Urban Studies). All information on sampling is in the city reports.

In the city-wide data, the graph shows that private household sanitation is used by the majority of households across these cities, with a sizeable proportion also using on-plot household shared. Only in Hawassa, Ethiopia, does communal sanitation play a role, for around 6% of households. In the data for low-income areas, it is clear that sharing plays a far larger role. In the Dhaka slums, less than 20% have private household toilet, and communal sanitation comprises almost 40% of toilet use. Pay-per-use public toilets were almost never used as the primary sanitation option in these cities, but this does not mean they don’t play an important role in providing sanitation options when people are out and about. nb. there was no open defecation reported as primary option in any city.

These categories were not derived from a single household survey question, but a series of questions about the attributes of the categories (questionnaire here). The difference between “household shared” and “communal” is that the former involves households sharing a toilet on their plot, with whatever cost-sharing arrangement they decide together, if any. The latter is normally a bigger “toilet block” type of arrangement where households can pay per month or similar for access whenever needed, and they have to leave their plot to get there (see this paper). Public toilets can be used by anyone, either for a small fee for each use or for free.

I’m not suggesting that the above categories are the best way to go. More work is needed on which categorisations are most important for policy/planning. Definitely it will be more than one set, as you can’t get all the relevant information (imp./unimp., on/off-plot, who can access, payment etc.) into one variable without it becoming unmanageable. The ways in which we categorise sanitation options and frame household survey questions and response categories are crucial for a good understanding of what is going on. Any given study or monitoring regime will have its own priorities. Whatever is done, it is key is that categories are well-defined, and enumerators (who are not sanitation specialists if a data collection firm is being used) understand the difference between different categories.

The JMP is still revising its “core questions” for household sanitation, but the latest JMP-endorsed questions are the module in the latest round of MICS here. The ones applicable to sharing are pasted below. So next time you’re doing an urban survey, best to use the below questions, unless you have a good reason not to! That way we’re all working towards consistent and comparable data on shared sanitation in the future.

MICS_san

washeconomics

santype5city

MICS_san

Preferences and constraints – when does container-based sanitation address the binding constraint to uptake?

July 23rd 2018 at 08:16
By: IanRoss

In welfare economics, “preferences” denote which alternative goods or services someone would choose, based on the relative “utility” provided by each (more on utility another time). For example, when presented with a box of chocolates, my first choice is always a praline (P). But if only marzipan fruits (M) and brazil nut caramels (B) were left, I would choose the latter. This allows my preferences over a “set” of chocolates to be written as:

P B M

However, if I liked B and M equally, I would be “indifferent” towards them, written as:

B ~ M

Enough about chocolate. Let’s assume that I interviewed 1,000 people in an urban setting. I asked them about their preferences over various household sanitation options if there were no constraints like space or money, and I found that:

  1. People’s first choice would be a private household toilet if it were possible
  2. Preferences for other types of sanitation followed the order of categories of sanitation I set out in this post, giving the result:

Household private Household shared Communal Public Open defecation

This is called stated preference (what they told us) as opposed to revealed preference (what we observe in people’s actual choices).

Household shared was preferred to communal because of not having to leave the plot. Communal was preferred to public on the assumption it would be closer, cleaner and cheaper on average. The other preference relationships are obvious, though may not hold in all urban settings, e.g. there is a revealed preference for open defecation in some parts of India.

The interesting question is, if people aren’t able to fulfil a stated preference for a private household toilet, which constraints prevent them from doing so? Furthermore, which of those is binding? Interventions addressing other constraints will not increase demand unless they address the binding constraint.

I’ve been thinking about this every time container-based sanitation (CBS) is considered as an option in a city I’m working on. CBS comprises systems in which toilets collect excreta in sealable, removable containers for transport to treatment. Below is one example of a CBS service chain from SOIL in Haiti.

SOIL_cycle

Where would CBS fit into the above preference set? The answer would depend on which constraint the household was facing towards fulfilling their preference.

So, what are common constraints to uptake of private toilets in urban areas? Three factors I’ve seen most reported are:

  1. limited space – nowhere to build a toilet on the plot
  2. limited ability to pay (ATP) – not enough access to cash or finance to purchase
  3. limited willingness to pay (WTP) – investment not perceived as worth its opportunity cost

Land tenure and tenancy status are key, and closely related to WTP. People who own their home but are squatting on land may have ATP but not WTP, because they fear making sunk investments which would be lost in the event of eviction. Landlords may not have WTP for private toilets for tenants, since they will not benefit personally (though in theory they could increase rents – evidence on this is mixed). Tenants may be reluctant or unable to invest in a landlord’s property. The ATP constraint relates not only to inability to fund the absolute CapEx cost, but also to inability to spread it over time. There are more factors besides.

To my mind, CBS seems most appropriate where space and/or ATP are the binding constraints.

  • Space: CBS overcomes this by placing the toilet in an existing room rather than a new structure
  • ATP: CBS overcomes this, partially, by making sanitation a service with a small regular fee (like water), rather than an upfront capital investment.

CBS may also have its place in some settings where WTP is the binding constraint, but then its value proposition would have to be better than the alternative. From a tenancy/tenure perspective, a CBS investment is not a sunk cost.

Where does this leave CBS in the hypothetical preference set, then? Of course it would depend on the household e.g. what their alternatives are, whether they have a suitable room, their relative preference for leaving the household building / plot to use a toilet (which could be gendered). On average, I think it might look like this:

private CBS  shared communal  public open defecation

The symbol ≽ denotes  “weak” preference (“better than or equal in value to”), as opposed to “strict” preference ( “better than”). A CBS toilet is essentially a private toilet which is not in a room constructed for the purpose. So it offers many of the advantages of private toilets over shared ones (privacy, security, convenience etc.). I suggest weak preference above (≽) because whether CBS is preferred to an on-plot shared arrangement will very much depend on the setting. The same is true for the other relationships but probably less so. Whether a private toilet is preferred to CBS will depend on other factors too – a household with space and ATP would probably prefer a specific structure not taking up an existing room (allowing those in adjacent rooms to hear and smell…).

CBS is not a silver bullet for all urban sanitation challenges. However, it does have potential in some settings, especially informal settlements where space, ATP (cost-spreading) or tenancy/tenure are the binding constraint to uptake of improved sanitation.

washeconomics

SOIL_cycle

Recall bias and cost data

August 14th 2018 at 10:28
By: IanRoss

I’ve been working on costing a few programmes recently where the intervention happened between 3-10 years ago. Both used household surveys asking people what they spent (in cash and in kind) towards the original infrastructure output (CapEx), towards regular operational and maintenance (OpEx) and irregular capital maintenance (CapManEx). It’s got me thinking about the various recall bias issues involved.

Look at the graph below, which is completely hypothetical. Let’s assume it’s for a sanitation intervention amongst 1,000 households which happened in 2008. The y-axis is some measure of ‘data quality’ when you ask 1,000 households about expenditure. If you asked in 2008 how much they spent (cash and kind) to construct a toilet (CapEx – blue line), they’ll probably still have a good idea because it was very recent. However, as time goes by, they’ll forget exactly what they spent, so the blue line drops. Data quality will drop fast at first, but then plateau after a while because people are likely to remember the order of magnitude of  what they paid.

recall bias

For OpEx (orange line), which is by definition recurrent expenditure which occurs with a regularity of one year or less, it’s a different problem. If you ask people in 2009 about their OpEx, they won’t have that good an idea because they only have 1 year’s experience of using the toilet. Maybe they’ve cleaned it regularly but not spent much more money so far. Over time, they build up more experience of how much they tend to spend on OpEx and data quality becomes good.

CapManEx (grey line) is the hardest. It is recurrent expenditure occurring less than once a year (e.g. pit or tank emptying costs). So any time you ask people about it they’re less likely to have experienced it recently than with OpEx. Stuff normally works well when it’s new, so people are unlikely to experience CapManEx for a fair few years. With a toilet, for example, you’re only likely to need to empty the pit or septic tank 3-8 years after installation depending on numerous factors. So you only start getting likelihood of good data on CapManEx many years after the intervention, but even then it’s never going to be brilliant because many people may not have incurred it recently, and you have the same recall bias issues.

So when should you do your cost data collection? It depends on your objectives. If you’re most interested in CapEx, then do it ASAP. But if the lifecycle element is more important to your study, then it’s probably best to wait at least 3 years, maybe even 6-8 years if it’s the CapManEx you’re most interested in. You can always impute the CapEx from other sources or ask a different sample of people who constructed more recently. Of course the best case would be to get regular data with the same panel of households at intervals, but who is going to fund that…

washeconomics

recall bias

Key Takeaways from Stockholm World Water Week 2018

September 19th 2018 at 13:27
City Centre in Stockholm, Sweden was the venue for World Water Week 2018. Photo credit: RK Srinivasan

More than 3,000 practitioners and decision-makers gathered in Stockholm, Sweden, at the end of August 2018 for World Water Week. Hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), this annual gathering encourages new thinking and positive action on water-related opportunities and challenges.

Engaging in a productive and busy week, USAID leaders, staff, and partners took center stage at more than a dozen events, including hosting a reception at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence with the Department of State to honor this year’s Stockholm Water Laureates.

“Our goals at Water Week were to lead the global dialogue around the need for unlocking new financing options for water and sanitation, crowding-in the private sector, and creating opportunities for women in the global water workforce. In the end these are what will help facilitate our partner countries’ journey to self-reliance in the water sector,” said James Peters, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator and Acting Global Water Coordinator, who led the Agency’s delegation to Stockholm.

During numerous sessions, USAID staff contributed their expertise and perspectives on water sector financing, system strengthening, diversity and inclusion, ecosystem services, resilience, and donor coordination. Other activities included connecting with partners to collaborate on shared interests and hosting a side event with a range of organizations to explore the use of skilled volunteers in USAID water and sanitation programs. Agency colleagues from missions including India and Ghana took the opportunity to engage in sector dialogue on topics of interest in their respective regions.

Interagency partners from the Department of State, NASA, and other agencies that contributed to the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy (GWS) complemented the USAID delegation, showing a whole-of-government commitment to ensuring a water-secure world.

USAID presenters and attendees share their takeaways from specific sessions below, offer some overall reflections about the conference, and explain how key topics resonate with their current water work and new directions outlined in the GWS.

Delivering on a Common Global Vision

James Peters delivers remarks at a USAID/Department of State reception for Stockholm Water Laureates at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence. Peters also shared highlights from the U.S. Government’s Global Water Strategy and USAID’s Water and Development Plan. Photo credit: Curtis Katz

This was the first World Water Week since the release of the GWS and USAID’s Water and Development Plan. During the Donors’ Water Strategies session USAID joined other donor countries and organizations to discuss their recent (or soon to be released) water strategies, including Germany, Switzerland, Finland, France, the World Health Organization, and the European Commission. All of the strategies shared one common feature — the vital role water plays to achieve development gains across multiple sectors.

At the session, Peters shared the U.S. vision of a water-secure world, as articulated in the GWS. “We assist partner countries on the path to self-reliance by improving their capability to govern, finance, and deliver safe water and sanitation to the neediest,” said Peters. He added, “The global funding gaps for water and sanitation are well beyond the capacity of foreign assistance to fill alone. We need to leverage new sources of financing and facilitate viable projects.”

USAID’s new plan also elevates sanitation and hygiene as a key development result to improve public health and empower women.

Financing WASH Investments

The need for financing to meet the global goal for universal access to safe water and sanitation cut across many of the conference sessions. According to the World Bank, more than $114 billion of capital investments will be needed annually to reach universal safe water and sanitation access by 2030.

This slide from the Blended Finance session at Stockholm World Water Week shows the spectrum of public and private financing options in the water sector as compared to credit risks. Credit: Gietema, van Oppenraaij and Fonseca, 2017 International Water Week Amsterdam

Conference participants and finance session attendees emerged with consensus about this key takeaway: Financing is such an urgent issue, not because of lack of funding, but because of the difficulty in finding/identifying WASH projects and activities with acceptable levels of risks and returns and an enabling environment to attract would-be investors. Jeffrey Goldberg, USAID’s Water Office Director, reiterated this message. According to Goldberg, WASH investments need to be about much more than just infrastructure — to be sustainable they need to attract private capital. “There is a call to action to focus more on financing and the overall surrounding and enabling environment,” he explained.

“I think the critical issue to watch is the interplay or tension between this need to attract private capital but also focusing on pro-poor approaches in the last mile,” Goldberg added. “As we work towards that, which is clearly an imperative, it’s equally important that we pay attention to those that are most vulnerable and making sure that we’re targeting our aid to them as well.”

A similar message came out of the session, Blended Finance: From Principles to Practice, according to Ella Lazarte, USAID Senior Water and Sanitation Advisor, who noted, “You can get money if you have the basics of the sector and you have an enabling environment, particularly governance.”

Diversity and Inclusion

Photo credit: Lakshman Nadaraja/World Bank

“We need to think beyond women as just customers and users, and really think about them as decision-makers with a seat at the table in water utilities [where] they are really able to influence and have a positive impact on the operational effectiveness of the utilities,” said Portia Persley, USAID Water Office Deputy Director, who led the session Diversity and Inclusion in Water Utilities.

Her panel emphasized the importance of changing people’s perceptions and expectations of the role that women play in the water sector. Often the narrative about women and water is framed in terms of long and treacherous trips to collect this vital resource. But women are also overlooked as members of the water sector workforce and as solution providers. On average only 17 percent of that workforce are women, according to an International Water Association study.

She noted that recent statistics and studies indicate that there is “a business imperative, a bottom line, positive impact of having women in decision-making roles.” She added that this approach may resonate more with utilities that make hiring decisions for less than altruistic reasons.

Persely shared USAID’s forthcoming Water and Development Plan implementation guidance as a good starting point: “[Accountability is] a key operating principle for us in terms of women’s empowerment and gender equality. And now we’re really making sure that we’re doing the hard work of integrating that into our programming.”

In a separate live-streamed session, The Ripple Effect: Empowering Women through Water, USAID and a consortium of partners, including the Coca-Cola Company and Gap Inc., presented results from a recent evaluation report on gender and water programs. Peters kicked off the session, saying, “I urge you all to take note of the learnings highlighted throughout this session, and think about how your programs can better include women’s economic empowerment and water access, as they are undoubtedly tied to your work as development professionals.” Check out a blog detailing this session and study findings on Globalwaters.org.

Nature-Based Solutions

Photo credit: AquaFondo and USAID’s Natural Infrastructure for Water Security activity

Given this year’s theme at Stockholm, “Water, Ecosystems and Human Development,” numerous sessions focused on nature-based solutions to water challenges. Interest in this area was high among USAID attendees due to the Agency’s focus on improving management of water resources — one of four development results set forth in USAID’s Water and Development Plan.

Agathe Takam, Water and Sanitation Advisor for USAID’s Africa Bureau, noted that much of the finance discussion was framed around infrastructure development and finding solutions to access. “We need to be looking also at the supply, and how can we increase investment into the ecosystem services that are providing the water in the first place,” she said.

Jonathan Cook, USAID Senior Climate Adaptation Specialist, described how the conference provided an opportunity to connect with the broader community on issues relevant to the activities he supports. “I do a lot of work…on trying to connect the environment to our broader goals on adaptation and resilience,” he explained. Cook attended Safeguarding Water-Related Ecosystems in the Mara River and Tonle Sap, which highlighted USAID’s Sustainable Water Partnership. He also attended several sessions related to financing solutions for nature-based approaches such as water tariffs, water funds, and payment for ecosystem services. “We have some really good activities that are implementing nature-based approaches, but getting them to scale and adopted more widely depends on innovative approaches to financing,” he said.

Representatives of USAID’s Peru Mission and its partners also participated in a session on Nature-Based Infrastructure Approaches to Water Security.

Building WASH Systems

Maria Ella Lazarte of @USAID "we have to be humble as donors, we have to listen to key actors in the system" #WASH #WASHsystems #siwisofa

 — @IRCWASH

It takes more than just taps and toilets to reach the neediest with safe water and sanitation. At World Water Week, the latest in WASH systems thinking drew interest because of its potential to ensure the long-term sustainability of water and sanitation investments.

Lazarte participated in an webcast interview on Strong WASH Systems: The Essential Element for SDG 6 Achievement, sharing some of her experience with systems-based approaches at USAID. “We have to be humble as donors, we have to listen to key actors in the system,” said Lazarte. She explained the dilemma that donors face when designing programs, which typically last for only five years: “How do you think long term given that constraint of preparing something for five years [when] taking a systems approach is really taking a longer term 10- to 20-year approach?”

She added, “How do you balance those tensions is something that I think USAID has been really thinking through. And in our new strategy, and plan for USAID, we’re emphasizing governance as a big piece and institutions. And that means we’re not just perhaps providing direct access, safe access to water to millions of people, we have to look at the institutional capacity…as donors we have to be more patient and and factor that in when we design our programs.”

Lazarte was joined in the interview by Dr. Callist Tindimugaya of Uganda’s Ministry of Water and members of USAID’s Sustainable WASH Systems, a learning partnership applying and researching systems-based approaches in the sector.

Engaging with Partners

Peters and the USAID Water Office also hosted a side event to hear from partners on how to best mobilize skilled volunteers to advance water and sanitation goals. In 2017, USAID launched Volunteers for International Security and Prosperity, a next-generation partnership to harness the expertise of skilled volunteers across multiple sectors.

The Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge provided a retrospective of its innovators and results. In addition, USAID’s Bureau for Food Security led a session on Linkages Between Water, Food Security, and Nutrition that featured a livestream interview.

Reflecting on myriad views and exchanges, Goldberg summed up World Water Week this way: “While donor coordination may seem daunting and challenging at face value, we’re at least on the same page technically, which is an inspiring call to action.”

By Oliver Subasinghe, USAID Water Office, and Mary Renwick, USAID Water CKM Project


Key Takeaways from Stockholm World Water Week 2018 was originally published in Global Waters on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How Morocco Is Training Country’s Next Generation of Water Managers

September 26th 2018 at 19:02
During a visit to Germany, officials from Morocco’s water sector learn about best practices for sustainable water management. Photo credit: U.N. Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

Morocco is staring into an uncertain water future. With a median population age of only 27, Morocco is a youthful nation in transition, contending with the interwoven challenges of urbanization, rapid population growth, industrialization, and climate change. These trends have collectively increased pressure on the country’s most vulnerable natural resource, water, with demand and competition for freshwater mounting with each passing year.

The country has enjoyed some notable successes in recent years to extend water supply coverage. In 2000, just more than half of Moroccans had access to an improved water supply in the immediate vicinity of where they lived. By 2015, that figure had risen to more than 68 percent, but still, nearly one-third of Moroccans remain without reliable water access, and only one-fifth of the country’s collected wastewater is treated. The country’s current population of 35 million is on track to reach 40 million within the next 30 years. Continuous demand for irrigation water from a thirsty agricultural sector further adds to the country’s water stresses despite Morocco’s battles with recurring droughts.

So how is Morocco planning on addressing the considerable water-related challenges that lie ahead?

Near Chefchaouen, in northwestern Morocco’s Rif Mountains. During times of water scarcity, melting snowpack in Morocco’s mountains has helped regulate water supply variability in downstream communities. Photo credit: Yotut

Enter the H2O Maghreb initiative. Launched in 2017, this two-year activity partners U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.N. Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) with Moroccan government bodies—the Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education, and Scientific Research; the Ministry of Equipment, Transport, Logistics, and Water; and the National Office for Water and Electricity (ONEE)—and two business partners, Festo Didactic and EON Reality. H2O Maghreb aims to harness the power of science, private sector innovation, and state-of-the-art technology to build the country’s capacity for sustainable water and wastewater management in both the public and private sectors, and train Morocco’s next generation of water managers—with a special focus on improving the employability of young people in the water sector and providing further professional development to those already involved. As the project ramps up in Morocco, H2O Maghreb is also considering expansion into other parts of Morocco and beyond, with eyes on bringing its water management training module to other arid and semi-arid countries across the Maghreb, North Africa, and the Middle East.

“To Moroccans, water is wealth,” says Salma Kadiri, a project management specialist with USAID/Morocco. “As the population grows and the economy develops, there are increasing amounts of stress on Morocco’s limited water resources. Ensuring future prosperity for all starts with addressing the main challenges of sustainable water management today. By leveraging technological advances from around the world, H2O Maghreb aims to support Morocco’s sustainable development by bringing modern practices to the water and wastewater sectors.”

Turning the Virtual into Reality

At the heart of H2O Maghreb’s mission lies innovation. The project emphasizes novel approaches to learning as it seeks to train an emerging generation of water technicians. Given the tech-savviness of Moroccan society, where roughly half the nation’s population uses a smartphone according to a recent survey, it may come as little surprise that H2O Maghreb’s program designers are implementing a curriculum that is cutting-edge and reliant on the next frontier of immersive technology—virtual reality (VR).

A student testing out Aquatronics’ virtual reality training equipment. Photo credit: Aquatronics

H2O Maghreb’s business partner EON Reality is enriching the project’s teaching curriculum with VR applications that enhance students’ technical training with trainees using VR equipment to gain “hands-on” experience with a virtual water treatment facility, while also simulating how to manage and respond effectively to real-life emergencies that may occur at water and wastewater plants.

“One of the major advantages of VR is that students can be trained on dangerous situations or situations difficult to reproduce such as lightning strike, flooding, or chemical accidents within the safe environment of VR,” says Ulrike Bletterie, H2O Maghreb project manager, on the technology’s ability to help prepare students for the unexpected. “Furthermore, VR allows [us] to reproduce the exact same training conditions for all students, which is especially helpful for examination and standard training,” such as safety and security and treatment plant inspections.

The VR-based training develops students’ technical skill sets while promoting best practices for sustainable water management gleaned from both the public and private sectors. In doing so, the curriculum takes a holistic, systematic view toward water and wastewater management, so that up-and-coming water managers gain an appreciation of and familiarity with the complexities and trade-offs needed when municipalities, industry, and agriculture are competing for the same finite water supply.

“This gives the students the opportunity to try out the different functions in the water cycle and directly see the interaction between these functions and how to influence them.”

While VR represents a new avenue for engaging aspiring water managers, H2O Maghreb’s programmatic emphasis on cutting-edge technology as a training tool does not end there. Thanks to the work of project business partner Festo Didactic, e-learning opportunities are made available to trainees and classes utilize a water management training system known as the Environmental Discovery System (EDS), which provides students with a thorough understanding of the hydrologic cycle and traces water’s journey step-by-step “from the source to the wastewater treatment plant,” says Bletterie. “This gives the students the opportunity to try out the different functions in the water cycle and directly see the interaction between these functions and how to influence them.”

The goal, project staff say, is to create a flexible approach to teaching that increases the chance that students will be responsive to at least one of the methods. “Each person has a different way of learning,” says Bletterie. “All these elements together with classical classroom training contribute to a solid and practical training approach that provides participants in the program with skills required for real-life working environment.” Furthermore, nowadays as employers in the sector seek staff that is appropriately skilled and flexible, training future recruits on a broad scale of topics using a variety of methods is a strategy aimed at maximizing their chances on the job market.

The objectives of this multi-pronged approach to learning, she says, are to both accelerate the training process while also ensuring the students are retaining the macro- and micro-level details concerning sustainable water management. “By offering different training modalities such as classroom training, training in the lab [EDS], training through VR, and training in the field the students will learn quicker, memorize easier, and get better practical skills,” which will in turn bolster their employability in the water and wastewater sectors of not only Morocco, but elsewhere across Africa as well. (Interested in seeing Aquatronics VR training in action? Click here.)

Boosting Employability by Breaking Down Gender and Language Barriers

Anchoring the project is an existing training center in Rabat, which will welcome this new water knowledge hub where the curriculum will be put into action. At the center, H2O Maghreb’s cutting-edge, market-driven training will equip young Moroccan water professionals with the knowledge and experience they will need to find employment within the country’s water management sector. To help break down some barriers to learning, the center will offer training materials in multiple languages. “The curricula will be made available in French as well as in English, with a view to easing replication of the H2O training program,” says Maximilien Pierotti, H2O Maghreb’s technical coordinator, who notes “the training of trainers and beneficiaries will be conducted in French.”

H2O Maghreb is also focusing on boosting the employability of women in the country’s water sector, actively recruiting women for training in an effort to overcome long-standing gender barriers within the sector. In Morocco, considerably fewer women than men work, with the greatest gender disparity found in middle-income jobs. To help close this gap within the confines of the water sector, H2O Maghreb has stitched gender mainstreaming into the fabric of its programming, specifically soliciting the involvement of young women as well as young men. “The project will strive to encourage women to attend the H2O Maghreb training program,” says Félix Duterte, a H2O Maghreb staffer, “in order to contribute positively to gender equality and not to perpetuate existing inequalities.”

To further encourage and facilitate women’s involvement in the country’s water sector, instructors affiliated with H2O Maghreb will discuss gender issues as part of their training, and the activity will disseminate gender-sensitive communication materials featuring “both male and female trainees and a gender-neutral vocabulary,” according to Duterte. “Gender awareness will also be raised among trainers during their training, and the project’s performance management system [i.e., various data collection tools] will ensure disaggregation of information by gender,” he adds.

Morocco’s population is expected to rise to 40 million by mid-century, placing increased pressure on the country’s freshwater supply. Photo credit: Graham Bland

Taking It to the Streets

While project designers are currently focused on implementation activities in Rabat, they are also taking steps to facilitate future replicability in other settings. If the H2O Maghreb trainings yield positive results in Rabat as planned, might the project’s training model be applicable to other water-stressed communities?

Project designers certainly believe so. “Collecting and sharing lessons learned and best practices is an integral part of H2O Maghreb; it is expected that its training program will be replicable to a large extent in various other contexts,” says Pierotti, noting that planning is already underway to offer the trainings elsewhere in the country. “The project will work closely with Moroccan Government counterparts to make sure that the training program gets fully accredited, and this will allow other Moroccan schools to deliver the H2O training program,” he says.

Beyond Morocco’s borders, H2O Maghreb has already been hosting community-of-practice meetings for government officials, private sector representatives, and members of academia to raise public awareness about the trainings across North Africa and the Middle East. The project plans to organize more such meetings, and also intends to place significant emphasis on involving water stakeholders from across sub-Saharan Africa. To further broaden dissemination of the water-sector knowledge created through H2O Maghreb, the activity will be linked to the Learning and Knowledge Development Facility, a hub with virtual and face-to-face knowledge-sharing functions. “The combination of these activities will pave the way for the dissemination of relevant, practical knowledge in relation to drinking water and sanitation,” says Pierotti.

“H2O Maghreb provides a state-of-the-art equipment and curriculum to deliver market-driven training programs to young Moroccans,” adds Kadiri. “Through this collaboration, we hope to develop an easily transferable model that can help other countries improve their water management techniques using modern technologies.”

By Russell Sticklor

Additional Resources:

This article appears in Global Waters, Vol. 9, Issue 5; for past issues of the magazine, visit Global Waters’ homepage on USAID.gov.


How Morocco Is Training Country’s Next Generation of Water Managers was originally published in Global Waters on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Placing Women at the Center of Water Supply Management in Kenya

September 27th 2018 at 17:14
Christine Kanini, right, speaking with a customer in Makueni County, Kenya. Photo: USAID KIWASH

As Christine Kanini checks water meters on her weekly rounds, she recalls that 18 months earlier she could not aspire to this job. “We had mainly male meter readers,” Kanini said. “Then I was promoted to this position from gate keeping. I am happy with the work.” Over the past year, the Wote Water and Sewerage Company (WOWASCO), which serves the small city of Wote in south-central Kenya, has opened up opportunities for women such as Kanini in fields that were previously deemed suited for men only.

These changes are part of gender initiatives supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Health (KIWASH) project. To improve the lives and health of 1 million Kenyans across nine counties, the five-year project (2015–2020) focuses on developing and managing sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services. Central to this objective is ensuring that everyone — especially women — has equal access to the opportunities created through improved WASH services, including jobs.

How Water Services Affect Women

Men and women benefit from water differently — both as users and water services providers. As users, given their conventional primary role in child care, domestic work, and water collection, women and girls are most disadvantaged and even put at risk when they must travel several kilometers or queue for many hours at local kiosks to gather the water they need to complete daily chores.

While these adverse conditions have become widely known, women’s potential roles in water services are less understood. Specifically, women’s lack of engagement and voice in providing water services has detrimentally affected their economic opportunity in the sector — especially their ability to get jobs — and limited their influence on investment and service decisions. Kenya typifies this sectoral imbalance. Despite women’s heavy role in water use, men in Kenya have dominated almost every water utility and related decision authority.

Nationally, Kenya has made significant progress toward improving these inequities: its new constitution from 2010 lists access to water and sanitation as a basic human right and mandates equal gender representation in these public sectors. Likewise, the government’s Vision 2030 plan recognizes that gender equality will play a critical role in achieving the country’s development goals. Despite these stipulations, however, progress has been slow. To help the country increase gender equity, KIWASH analyzed 13 water utilities across the nine counties where we work to determine the barriers women face as both employees and customers and to identify areas for improvement.

Cooperative Bank of Kenya staff received training on water sector financing and ways to improve loan quality and reduce risk. Photo: USAID KIWASH

Improving the Gender Ratio

KIWASH’s assessment found that none of the 13 water utilities met the minimum requirement of 30 percent female representation — whether on the Board of Directors or in corporate or technical management roles. None were led by women or had in place approved gender or sexual harassment policies. In addition, utility employees generally perceived that discrimination existed in recruitment, job placement, and advancement, and in the treatment of pregnant or lactating women.

KIWASH worked with each utility to develop Gender Equity Action Plans; these plans established improvement goals, training on gender equality awareness, and policies and recruitment strategies to attract female leaders and employees. Several of these utilities have now drafted or implemented new recruitment policies that stipulate gender ratios.

For example, the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC) employs 3,000 people. One year ago, only two of eight of the company’s leadership positions were held by women; today, men and women are equally represented.

Vicky Maiyo, the Donor Project Officer with NCWSC, described the progress she is starting to see. “Initially, leadership in the utility company was a male affair,” Maiyo said. “After the trainings, we have four women heading the regions and three of our six managers are women. And with technical work, like those operating water tankers, excavators, or driving heavy commercial vehicles, there is [increased female] representation where before those jobs were dominantly male.”

Water company staff in Mbooni, Makueni County, received training to reduce revenue losses caused by leaks, theft, poor billing systems, and weak metering policies. Photo: USAID KIWASH

Women Doing a Great Job

The KIWASH team has heard reports that women water staffers take more time to explain service delivery issues to customers and are particularly effective in collecting revenue, where customer relations are key. In one striking example, the best performer at NCWSC was a female staff member who collected KES120 million (US$1.2 million) in one month, setting a company record for monthly collection. Some water company staff have noted that women leaders have helped improve discipline among staff through closer monitoring and engagement.

In Wote, WOWASCO did not meet the 30 percent female representation required by law. WOWASCO is now encouraging and seeking out qualified women to apply for vacant board positions and lobbying the county government to consider recruiting women to its Public Service Board.

Two female WOWASCO staff were recently allowed to join the formerly all-male meter-reading team. They received on-the-job training and are now enjoying interacting with customers and learning more about the water delivery part of the business. “I like this job,” Kanini said as she drove from one house to the next in Wote Town, speaking with customers and reading meters. WOWASCO Managing Director Joseph Kuti is also pleased with the changes he is seeing. “We thought these were men’s jobs,” Kuti said. “Yet Christine performs well in her job. Her zone has the least complaints.”

Addressing Sexual Harassment

KIWASH carries out quarterly assessments of water services providers to track improvements in gender equality mainstreaming. These assessments are premised on short- and medium-term action plans developed during KIWASH trainings. As sexual harassment affects women’s dignity as well as water provider performance and utility/customer relations, sexual harassment needs to be tackled head on. KIWASH worked with the utilities to conduct 11 training sessions and develop action plans that raise awareness of what constitutes sexual harassment and how it harms people and job performance. KIWASH is now advising water companies on how to develop sexual harassment policies.

Vicky Maiyo, seated center, and women officers from the biggest water company in Kenya after gender mainstreaming training in Nairobi. Photo: USAID KIWASH

Reaching More Female Customers

KIWASH’s gender assessment revealed another barrier women face: 85 percent of the utilities required a title deed to apply for a water connection. In a highly patriarchal society such as Kenya, men tend to hold such deeds. As a result, many widows and single mothers — especially in poor households — are unable to apply for water connections.

With support from KIWASH, two water companies have addressed this challenge. The Kitui Water and Sanitation Company no longer requires a title deed to apply for a water connection. Since the change, the connections officer noted that most new applicants are women without title deeds; dropping this requirement has helped hundreds of households to access water. WOWASCO also changed its application requirements and now only asks for an identification card. Kuti, the managing director, is at the forefront of promoting gender equity in service provision. “Our next step is to develop a gender policy for generations to come, so that the changes we are making last forever,” Kuti said.

Tailoring some of its key communications to women has also led to increased engagement from female customers. Maiyo recollects how NCWSC did not have a direct gender policy for customer outreach. “The company used to hold joint community meetings with men and women during feasibility studies,” Maiyo said. “Men would dominate the meetings. However, we have learned that in some communities it is better to hold separate meetings for men and women. As a result, women express themselves freely and this is a good step for the company as we obtain inclusive feedback from the community.”

Removing Barriers, Strengthening Society

Gender equality is a fundamental human right but also necessary to fuel a prosperous and sustainable economic future in Kenya. With KIWASH support, Kenya’s water utility sector is increasing gender equity, providing more and better job opportunities for women, improving the workplace environment, and increasing access to water services for thousands of women.

Leaving the office to conduct field work, Kanini smiled and reflected on the opportunities now available to her. “My future at this company is bright; I have hope that I can be promoted to another position in the office,” she said. “Thanks to KIWASH, I have more opportunity and flexibility to organize my work, and my life will be better because of it.”

By Emily Mutai and Annabell Waititu

This article was first published in DAI’s Developments newsletter.

Additional Resources:

This article appears in Global Waters, Vol. 9, Issue 5; for past issues of the magazine, visit Global Waters’ homepage on USAID.gov.


Placing Women at the Center of Water Supply Management in Kenya was originally published in Global Waters on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Global Handwashing Day 2018: Clean Hands — A Recipe for Health

September 27th 2018 at 17:35

Now entering its 10th year, Global Handwashing Day is an international advocacy day dedicated to raising awareness about the key role handwashing behavior change plays in improving public health. In this photo essay, see how USAID’s support for improved handwashing practices is helping create healthier communities around the world.

Photo credit: USAID/Indonesia, IUWASH PLUS

Combining the right ingredients — water and soap — with the right utensils — like handwashing stations, sinks, tippy taps, buckets and towels — creates a recipe for handwashing that stops the spread of germs and diseases. At 2017 Global Handwashing Day celebrations in Sulawesi, Indonesia, USAID’s Indonesia Urban Water, Sanitation, Hygiene Penyehatan Lingkungan untuk Semua (IUWASH PLUS) program helped local primary school teachers and students make successful hand washing their best new habit.

Photo credit: Save the Children, Unilever/Lifebuoy

Studies have found a direct link between increased handwashing and improved overall health. USAID’s recipe for health focuses on increasing the practice of handwashing with soap, safely disposing of feces, managing safe drinking water, and practicing safe food hygiene. All of these behaviors start at home, which is why it is important for parents to teach them to their children. Here, a mother in Afghanistan participates in a USAID training that emphasizes the importance of handwashing.

Photo credit: Fintrac, Inc., USAID/Cambodia

This year’s Global Handwashing Day theme links handwashing with food safety and encourages families to make handwashing a part of their meal. Emerging evidence points to the likely importance of a household’s overall hygienic environment for reducing disease and improving nutrition, especially among children. USAID promotes practicing proper handwashing during three critical junctures related to food: before preparing food, before eating, and before feeding others in order to prevent foodborne illnesses and keep families healthy. These junctures are emphasized and promoted during nutrition activities and demonstrations, such as this one in Cambodia that links improved food production with better child nutrition.

Photo credit: Armando Barreno, USAID/Guatemala Water Quality for All initiative

Promoting handwashing and hygiene behaviors in schools can be as simple as providing handwashing stations with soap near toilets and practicing handwashing as a group at set times, like before lunch. It’s important to keep practices inclusive and simple so that they motivate people even at a young age to form healthy habits

Photo credit: Global Communities, USAID DREAMS Partnership

Students like these DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe) participants in Kenya serve as both advocates and models for improved handwashing behaviors. Schools are great places to introduce and improve health and hygiene techniques. Schools often, however, lack basic materials such as handwashing stations and soap. Empowering adolescent girls and young women with the right ingredients (supplies) and recipes (messages) improves individual and family health outcomes while unlocking their educational potential.

Photo credit: Rakesh Katal, USAID Food For Peace​ ​​D​evelopment ​F​ood ​S​ecurity ​A​ssistance, Nobo Jatra Project

How does USAID measure success in improving hygiene? Through a mixture​ of conducting research ​to identify consumer and household preferences, needs, and barriers to behavior change, and facilitating ​the ​availability of multiple product choices that support improved hygiene behaviors. With a ​little bit of practice, a young girl in Bangladesh learns the importance of handwashing during a USAID Food For Peace demonstration.

Photo credit: USAID/Indonesia

By Claire Hubert

Additional Resources:

This photo essay appears in Global Waters, Vol. 9, Issue 5; for past issues of the magazine, visit Global Waters’ homepage on USAID.gov.


Global Handwashing Day 2018: Clean Hands — A Recipe for Health was originally published in Global Waters on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Backyard Cooperation Leads to Wastewater Treatment

November 7th 2018 at 16:00
Mirtha Saleta (left), a project coordinator in Santiago from sub-awardee CDES (under Fundación REDDOM), stands with team members from Cristo Rey, Dominican Republic, as they develop the initial surveys for defining households’ baseline sanitation conditions and willingness to receive the proposed constructed wetland solution for improved wastewater treatment. Photo credit: Ron Savage, USAID

Carola Piña was ashamed to have visitors. The single mom and her two teenage sons shared a one-bedroom house with a collapsed sewage septic system that left them exposed to wastewater. “We just could not endure the stench,” she says. “Not us, not our neighbors.”

Thousands of families in the Dominican Republic face problems like this. Only 25 percent of households are connected to regulated wastewater and sewage services. Some households use septic systems in various states of repair, like Piña, and many others discharge their wastewater directly into streams, rivers, or bays. This is a large enough problem most of the year, but even more so during large storms. “We have kids playing in the river, we have people using the water downstream,” explains Erick Conde, project management specialist with USAID/Dominican Republic’s Agriculture and Environment Office. “So when we have increased flow rates and when we have flooding events, all of that wastewater is actually mixed up with the rainwater, and communities and houses get flooded with dirty or untreated water.”

This sort of pollution not only affects residents, but also visitors to the Dominican Republic. Since tourism is one of the country’s largest industries, public health or environmental threats are viewed as a real concern. “That contamination that is coming from the river and going to the beach is affecting [tourism],” says Luis Tolentino, an environmental specialist in the Dominican Republic. And as shifts in climate patterns create stronger and more frequent storms, those effects become magnified.

The neighborhood of Cristo Rey in Guarabo, Santiago, is densely built, which is typical for the Dominican Republic. Photo credit: REDDOM

The challenge is to improve wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal for as many households as possible as efficiently as possible. The team behind USAID’s three-year, $1.8 million Climate Risk Reduction Project quickly realized that large-scale treatment facilities would not work. The Dominican Republic has few tracts of land large enough for such facilities, and those that are available are very expensive. “We had to figure out a solution so we could treat the wastewater in small spaces,” says Jeffrey Perez, the project’s monitoring and evaluation specialist. The solution USAID devised: small-scale constructed wetlands.

Each of these wetlands is designed to serve three to five households. Pipes from each kitchen sink flow into a grease trap to remove system-clogging food wastes, and from there, into an underground anaerobic tank, which also collects the wastewater from bathrooms and toilets. Solids settle to the bottom of the tank while bacteria start to break down pollutants. Liquids then flow into the wetland, which could be as small as 4 square meters, where specialized plants further break down pollutants and layers of sand and gravel act as a mechanical filter. The final treated water is then allowed to enter the water table through a last series of sand, gravel, and rock layers. By that time, 75 to 80 percent of contaminants have been removed.

These wastewater treatment facilities are simple but effective, and can be shared by multiple households. Credit: REDDOM

“This is very basic. This is not rocket technology,” says Pilar Ramírez, the project’s community engagement director. “The sustainability of those systems is very simple because the only thing they have to do is once every two or three years, they have to open [the tank] to clean it.”

The cost of a five-household system is around $2,500, or $500 per household, which is affordable for many families in the Dominican Republic. Sharing of both the costs and the physical infrastructure makes installation feasible, particularly in crowded urban settings with very small plots of land. “Maybe we will install the septic tank in your backyard,” explains Perez. “And then maybe the wetland will go in the backyard of another neighbor.” Cooperation and agreement is essential.

The first wastewater treatment structure built under the Climate Risk Reduction Project (CRR) Project in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Photo credit: Erick Conde, USAID

The project has now started its third year, and is moving beyond the pilot phase. So far, 21 household groups and a primary school have had wetland systems installed. The team selected each location after an extensive consultation process with city and local authorities in the target cities of Santiago and Las Terrenas. City officials recommended particular vulnerable neighborhoods, and then local leaders in those neighborhoods guided the team to specific locations that met the project’s requirements. If all the affected households in a given location agreed, installation could begin.

Most often recipients of the wetlands provide the labor to help install the treatment system. “The communities are willing to work,” says Conde. “It’s something they help build, and it’s something that is there, and they feel the difference right away.”

Instilling this sense of value for a project, while a lot of effort, is one of the ultimate goals. “Being able to work with the community, especially with the neighborhood associations, so they can take ownership, it’s one of the best lessons learned that we could have,” says Jesús de los Santos, the project director.

Sanitation is a high priority in USAID’s new Global Water Strategy, particularly in dense urban areas. Globally, the Agency is investing in onsite, non-sewered sanitation resilient solutions such as this one in the Dominican Republic.

But for people like Carola Piña, who now has a compact wetland adjacent to her home, the most important thing is that she now has a healthier environment for herself and her two sons. “Now we can breathe!” she exclaims.

By Christine Chumbler

Additional Resources:

This photo essay appears in Global Waters, Vol. 9, Issue 6; for past issues of the magazine, visit Global Waters’ homepage on USAID.gov.


Backyard Cooperation Leads to Wastewater Treatment was originally published in Global Waters on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

SUSTAINABLE WASH FINANCE SERIES: Blended Finance for Water Infrastructure: Hope or Hype?

November 8th 2018 at 15:40

This story is part of our series on sustainable WASH finance. Alex Money shares why more catalytic innovation is needed to have a transformative impact. This story was originally published on IRC’s blog. To view the original story, click here. By Alex Money  What is blended finance? Blended finance is a somewhat amorphous concept. A simple definition…

Keeping the Water Flowing

November 8th 2018 at 20:32

One village in Nepal is working to implement a shared vision of the future.

Villagers of Lapilang, Nepal, lead the way to where the new water tap is located. Photo credit: Colin H.P. Buckley, USAID

When the citizens of Lapilang, a village in the northeastern region of Nepal, needed fresh drinking water, they would collect their buckets and set out on an hours long journey up a steep mountainside overlooking the foothills of the Himalayas.

Arduous and prone to danger from mudslides, the trip became necessary after the April 25, 2015, earthquake, which killed 9,000 people in Nepal. The devastation was followed by dozens of aftershocks that killed hundreds more while leveling buildings, rupturing pipes, destroying farmland and contaminating or shifting local water sources.

Almost overnight, clean drinking water for the village was hours away and difficult to access.

In spite of enormous logistical challenges, USAID and its partners mobilized in the following months to help villages like Lapilang. Last year, I went there as USAID staff to see if there had been any progress in returning their lives to normal.

What made USAID’s work in Nepal unique was the use of “Community Driven Development.” In this approach, an outside organization may offer to fund important small infrastructure projects, but it is up to community members themselves to identify, implement and maintain those projects. Instead of simply relying on outsiders to fund necessary improvements, the community will gain experience in democracy, local governance and demand greater accountability from leaders.

Photo credits: Colin H.P. Buckley, USAID

Interested in learning more? Click here to read the full article on USAID 2030 on Medium.


Keeping the Water Flowing was originally published in Global Waters on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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