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Citywide access to water and sanitation services in Kenya

Clean, piped water brings dignity to people, reduces living costs, frees up time – and crucially, given the situation right now, is a critical defence against infectious diseases.

With the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation’s Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) has been working with Kenyan city authorities to enable more than 600,000 urban residents across five cities to improve access to clean water, safe sanitation and improved hygiene.

Improving water supply

Through new pipeline extensions, residents in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu can now connect to the water supply. Nancy Adhiambo, a fishmonger in Nairobi, says, “To be able to sell the fish I must first prepare them. I use water from the prepaid water dispensers to clean them. It is very helpful for business.”

WSUP also worked with private water operators to improve the quality of service for residents in marginalised communities. “I was trained on business development, human resources, financial and customer management,” says Vincent Omondi, a water entrepreneur in Kisumu.

Fishmonger Nancy Adhiambo has benefited from WSUP and RAIN’s extensions to the water network in Nairobi. Credit: Brian Otieno

Upgrading sanitation services

In Nairobi’s under-served community of Kaptagat, WSUP worked with the city utility Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company to extend the sewer network, upgrade pit latrines to pour flush toilets, and build demand for the new service.

Alice Nduta was one of the first to get a sewer connection in the community. Before, she had to use a room as a septic tank, and had to pay twice a month to have the room cleaned out. “The whole community is now cleaner and there is no bad odour in the area mainly because other plot owners have also connected their toilets to the sewer line.”

RAIN and WSUP provided residents like Alice Nduta with sewer connections that reduce the monthly cost of sanitation

Empowering women and girls

Ensuring that facilities meet the needs of women and girls is a vital part of building inclusive services. In Naivasha, WSUP worked with Life Bloom Services International to develop a sanitary pads sales and distribution business. Many of the sales agents are former sex workers, giving these women an opportunity to improve their lives through the Life Bloom social business.

Stronger utilities

As a result of the programme, utilities in four cities now have an improved ability to serve the poorest communities. For WSUP, this achievement represents significant progress towards our overall goal of supporting water and sanitation providers in Kenya to provide universal access across cities in the country.

Learn more about WSUP's work with The Coca-Cola Foundation

Stronger regulators crucial to improving sanitation services for the poorest, report finds

A new report published by Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) and the Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation (ESAWAS) Regulators Association identifies how stronger regulators can play an important role in improving sanitation for under-served urban residents.

The report, entitled Referee! Responsibilities, regulations and regulating for urban sanitation, has four key findings:

  1. Regulatory effectiveness is a core driver of improved sanitation services. Every football match needs a referee.
    An independent regulator can act as a referee between the government, and sanitation service providers, to ensure the best deal possible for customers.
  2. Regulations are not enough: clear responsibilities and active regulating is essential.
    A plethora of national laws and municipal by-laws already governs much around sanitation services. Yet on their own, rules rarely translate into improved outcomes.
  3. Problems cannot be solved in one bold step. Active regulating involves incremental change, extensive consultation and testing.
    Even countries which are showing good progress have a long way to go. Sandwiched between utility, government and consumer, regulators have to introduce change gradually and manage stakeholders wisely.
  4. A Regulating Ladder could support countries in their journey to active regulating.
    A ladder which mirrors the industry-wide UNICEF / WHO JMP sanitation ladder could inform assessments of where countries stand in their journey from passive regulations compliance to active regulating.

Download the full report here

As part of this research we spoke to staff from regulators in Kenya, Zambia and Mozambique about the importance of active regulating in promoting access to quality, affordable sanitation.

Safe sanitation is not just about toilets – it’s about the effective systems that underpin strong services. Regulators are a crucial, but often undervalued part of that.

WSUP and ESAWAS have analysed the role of regulators in four countries to assess their importance in the broader system of sanitation services, and understand how their roles are being made more impactful. The report identifies a range of different regulatory instruments and demonstrates how their introduction is leading to improved sanitation services in traditionally under-served urban communities.

The national case studies are as follows:

Bangladesh: national institutional and regulatory framework for un-sewered sanitation

Kenya: standard operating procedures in the city of Kisumu

Kenya: introducing cross-subsidies to finance sanitation

Mozambique: adopting new regulatory responsibilities

Zambia: a new national framework for regulating un-sewered sanitation

Kenya: incentives to encourage utilities to serve the poorest communities

The report also assesses the contribution being made by ESAWAS to drive change through at pan-African level.

Read the full report here

How can the global WASH sector respond better in future crises?

By Kariuki Mugo, Director of WASH Sector Support

The global WASH sector has laudably responded to the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of the actions have been in supporting the public health domain in handwashing with soap by way of ensuring adequate water is available in most households.

There has also been a great deal of investment in ensuring that water is available to all, especially the most vulnerable in cities, where lockdowns have been enforced. The poor have a different level of vulnerability in the sense that majority, if not all of them, depend on daily wages. The moment human movement is restricted, it immediately curtails their cash flow and as a result, denies them the opportunity to afford basic needs such as water supplied by vendors and pay-per-use public sanitation.

Despite these praiseworthy responses by WASH service institutions, this epidemic has made us realise that we do not have the right mechanisms for any form of emergencies in the sector. Traditionally, our systems are designed for normal conditions and not to respond to emergencies such as flooding, hunger, and war. These situations are usually localised and responded to by independent state and global bodies and not service providers.

However, there has been no known humanity crisis like Covid-19 in our generation, one that permeates nearly every facet of our existence. It is therefore not a surprise that the WASH sector, just like many others, was caught flat-footed by this pandemic. The situation has been of helplessness, the same case like everywhere else in terms of response.

Now that we seem to have somehow figured out the immediate actions to save lives and sustain a basic level of access to services, we need to envision what could have been done to better prepare for such circumstances. This becomes the immediate area of attention for the WASH sector to focus on, and the following are some suggestions.

WASH institutions have responded well to Covid-19 by providing emergency handwashing stations and water access. We must now focus on how to better prepare for future pandemics.

Structure Mandates and Coordination Mechanisms for Institutions

Institutional overlaps in the hygiene and sanitation sectors is a common occurrence in developing nations. Lack of clarity in mandates lead to either duplication or lapse of service provision. There is usually a level of unseen competition, especially in areas deemed to be well resourced by governments and donors, and abandonment of others that are difficult and less lucrative. The latter is usually the case for provision of services to the poor, and more so, onsite sanitation and basic hygiene services.

One of the evident and significant struggles in our programme countries is how various governmental bodies have struggled to respond on their own, as well as to rally support from stakeholders. This situation has clearly shown that it is the high time governments figured out how WASH institutions can effectively and efficiently work together not only to respond to humanitarian crises, but also in the day-to-day provision of services.

There is need for policymakers to rethink how institutions are structured and coordinated to enable clarity of responsibilities and allocation of resources, and as a result, reducing overlap and competition, and enhancing efficiency and collaboration in service provision at all times.

Develop Responsive Policy and Legal Frameworks

There is no doubt that the WASH sector lacks the relevant policies, laws, and regulations to govern response to crisis. The fact that the sector is designed to provide services to the population under normal economic conditions, any change in circumstances exerts undue stress to the systems, structures, and available resources. Besides, new, improved ways of working can only work if the existing policies and laws are repealed and this can often be challenging to implement.

Proper policies, laws and regulations will, for sure, enable WASH institutions to be in a better place to respond to emergencies and sustain services to a reasonable level. It is therefore imperative that governments draft statutes to better harmonize sanitation and hygiene institutions. This structured coordination is critical in such emergencies and is lacking in most countries.

Besides, hygiene has been a silent component in WASH service provision. Historically, most hygiene interventions have been mainly short-term campaigns without any meaningful infrastructure investment and sustainability mechanisms. This failure to position hygiene as a critical public health driver emanates from the fact that WASH sector policies do not consider the need for its investment and as a crucial responsibility of service providers. Now that  Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the value of hygiene in saving lives, policies and regulations must be reviewed to reposition its place in the sector.

The Covid-19 crisis has shown that we need to position hygiene as a critical public health driver. Credit: Yellow Rose

Structure Mechanisms for Full Utility Cost-Recovery During Emergencies

Utilities’ response to the crisis, in countries such as Ghana and Kenya, has mainly been the provision of free water in the short-term. This act of benevolence is commendable. But without any doubt, non-reimbursement by governments will usher in a more severe crisis of operational sustainability in the medium and long terms.

To begin with, low-income people living in unserved areas cannot afford to pay for services when directly provided by utilities during emergencies. Since they lack daily income and primarily depend on informal vendors and on-demand payments. The utilities, on the other hand, lack mechanisms for deferring non-customer payments and subsequent collection of revenues for services provided during the lockdowns. This situation, in addition to undue political pressure, has forced them to extensively provide free water during this pandemic.

The low levels of financial cost recovery mean that the service providers will soon experience a struggle to meet their fundamental recurrent obligations, thus further leading to a deterioration of services.

There is, therefore, a need to develop frameworks for enabling full cost-recovery support mechanisms for WASH service provision institutions while undertaking acts of emergency response for vulnerable populations. This is what is done for other sectors that typically intervene during humanitarian crises.

Utilities will need full cost-recovery support mechanisms to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Credit: Tsilavo Rapiera

Ensure Equitable Access to Basic Urban Services (Leave No One Behind)

The curtailment of movement during lockdowns means that people are confined in spaces that generate a high level of service provision demand that is never experienced in regular periods. The need for water in low incomes areas is never high through days and nights, and as a result, utilities are finding it difficult to respond to this unusual condition.

Most importantly, this crisis has brought out the need for having arrangements to provide basic services to all those living in urban areas. The fact that the poor cannot access basic goods and services has made it impossible for most developing world governments to enforce lockdowns in low income urban and peri-urban areas.

This not only demonstrates how inequality inhibits the response to a public health emergency but also clearly tells that governments cannot respond to any other form of disasters in cities by way of broadly restricting human movement in low-income areas. It is a clear indication that inequality in access to basic urban goods and services leads to administrative incapability. Needless to say, inability to enforce a total lockdown in a segment of the population during Covid-19 outbreak indicates powerlessness to fully govern citizens in crisis situations.

This security red flag should serve as a serious wake-up call all governments to focus on providing services and ensuring economic empowerment of all their city populations, particularly the poor. If they do, it will improve the likelihood that in times of emergencies, people’s basic needs are met. In turn, this will make it easier to implement the necessary disaster responses across all of their people, speeding up recovery and a return to normality.

Find out more about WSUP's Covid-19 response

Fighting Covid-19 sustainably: four steps to creating water solutions that will last

In the wake of coronavirus, governments in developing economies are waking up to the urgency of providing water as an act of defence against infectious diseases.

Some short-term measures are important, but equally important is a renewed focus on long-term availability of water supplies, particularly for the poorest in cities.

Universal water coverage is not a luxury: it is an essential part of keeping people safe. Many governments in the Global South have responded impressively to the threats caused by Covid-19. They now need to use this momentum to look to the long term and create water access in informal settlements that will be sustainable for years to come, protecting against future pandemics or a second wave of Covid-19.

Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) has identified four steps to creating long-term water solutions that will last:

  1. Invest in stronger utilities
  2. Embrace the power of great customer service
  3. Improve regulatory oversight
  4. Strengthen cooperation between communities and utilities

1. Invest in stronger utilities

Utilities are the solution to comprehensive, safe water access in cities, with a remit to manage water supply from source right through to settlement. To have any chance of achieving access, cities need bring piped, treated water to households, and increase the number of people connecting to this water supply.

Investing in utilities and helping them improve services for the people who need them most is one of the most important steps that we can take to tackle the water crisis.

A key element to this is investing in continuous water supply. Intermittent water supply – where water supply is switched on and off – weakens infrastructure, can allow contamination into the water network, and crucially, means that water is not available when residents need it. Utilities have to be able to provide water 24 hours a day, seven days a week for all their customers.

WSUP is working with the utility JIRAMA in Madagascar to build their capacity and help them deliver higher-quality services. Image credit: Tsilavo Rapiera

2. Embrace the power of great customer service

Great customer service means customers are happy, bills are paid promptly and leads to more customers, which leads to more revenue – which in turn results in better, and expanded, services. It is a crucial, and often neglected, part of tackling the water crisis.

The current guidance from many governments that customers cannot be disconnected has meant some water providers fearing that poor customers will stop paying their bills. Utilities are concerned that their long-term financial viability may be threatened if this happens.

But our experience is that customers will keep paying if they receive a quality service. To create more water access, therefore, utilities need to visibly improve services for existing residents, building a more loyal customer base which will provide the launchpad for growth.

Utilities in Zambia are improving their customer service at a local level to help expand water access in informal settlements. Image credit: Gareth Bentley

3. Improve regulatory oversight

Regulation is often over-looked but a crucial part of incentivising utilities to provide water to the poorest segments of society. If servicing the poorest becomes a matter of regulatory compliance, rather than an optional add-on, then it changes the focus for senior management of those water utilities.

In Kenya, for example, this is starting to happen, with the introduction of a metric that utilities must report to the regulator showing how well it is serving low-income areas. The better a utility does serve these communities, the better it does on the annual league tables.

READ: Achieving national impact through regulatory improvements in Kenya

Utilities in Kenya must now report on their service to low-income areas in order to place highly in the league tables Image credit: Brian Otieno

4. Strengthen co-operation between communities and utilities

Poor relations between urban communities and publicly owned utilities are a significant reason for slow uptake of water services. When communities take matters into their own hands to source and distribute water to residents, this actually hampers the availability and quality of water across a city.

Community-led water services can result in poorly treated water, a lack of fairness in pricing, a proliferation of informal water vendors and often, different communities in effect competing to draw water from underground sources. Uncoordinated water abstraction is a major threat to water availability in urban areas.

To solve these challenges, water providers have to be much more proactive about showing how they can meet the needs of residents and winning communities over, so that residents can benefit from safely treated, piped water from the central water network.

In Ghana, water providers have been working to engage communities in their work to expand their services to low-income areas. Image credit: Ernanio Mandlate

Learn more about WSUP's Covid-19 response

Delegated Management Models: ensuring service delivery at a local level

By Chisha Mwenso, Administrative Officer for WSUP in Zambia

In Zambia, WSUP has been supporting sustainable models for WASH service delivery to help reach more people in the most underserved communities.

In Lusaka, the capital and largest city in Zambia, around 65% of residents live in low-income communities, many of which lack access to clean water and safe sanitation. These areas are often overlooked by utilities and service-providers as they are less profitable than higher-income districts where residents can more easily afford water and sanitation services.

Lusaka Water Supply and Sanitation Company (LWSSC) has been implementing Delegated Management Models (DMMs) to expand access to water and sanitation in low-income areas and improve service delivery at the local level. This model establishes local management teams within communities which take over responsibility for day-to-day service delivery from the utility.

By preparing bills and payments, collecting meter readings, fixing leaks in the network and setting up new water connections they ensure a more reliable water supply and better customer service. As a result, residents become more positive about the service and more likely to invest in their own household water connections.

WSUP has been working to support LWSSC in the establishment and maintenance of these DMMs. This has included creating and monitoring service agreements between the operators and the utility; evaluating existing DMMs; mobilising capital to support new infrastructure; training staff and helping with community engagement. In addition, we have supported the low-income customer unit within LWSSC so that, in future, they will be able to establish DMMs without external support.

In the case of Mtendere East, a low-income community in Lusaka, WSUP also helped to mobilise financing to extend the water network to the area. Eight years on, this DMM is still working well, servicing 1,700 households with clean, affordable water. The local management team has also established positive relationships with the community through good service provision and a fast response time to queries.

“The DMM has been very proactive in resolving any challenges that arise and always provides good customer service. I receive my bills on time and in instances where I have been unable to settle my water bill at once the DMM has a facility that allows me to pay in instalments and not face any water service interruption” – Austin Kazelondo, a customer of the DMM in Mtendere East.

Austin Kazelondo, a customer of the DMM in Mtendere East

Investing back into the community

The management teams set up through DMMs require a start-up investment but are designed to become financially viable after this initial period. In Mtendere East, this start-up funding was provided by Australia Aid with support from CARE International who have worked with other DMMs in the area. Since then the local management team has been able to generate enough income to cover its own operating costs and establish an investment fund for the DMM. This fund is used to support payment plans that help residents spread out the costs of establishing a household water connection and to save towards the development of the DMM.

From this fund the management team has been able to save enough to build its own office in Mtendere East, allowing it to serve more residents in-person and extend its services within the community.

“The revenue being collected from the kiosks and payment of bills has enabled the DMM to extend the water network to service more people and build more kiosks, increasing the number from 15 to 24. Furthermore, the land on which these additional kiosks have been constructed is land that has been offered by the community members” – Benny Kaleya, Manager of the DMM in Mtendere East.

Benny Kaleya, Manager of the DMM in Mtendere East

What can we learn from Mtendere East?

The DMMs established in Lusaka have shown that this model can provide a successful path for commercial utilities and other government authorities to better serve low-income communities.

“We have seen high levels of efficiency with the DMM approach. You have a team dedicated to this area who are very efficient in providing services and are in constant contact with the customers”– Yvonne Siyeni, Peri-urban Department Manager for LWSSC.

Yvonne Siyeni, Peri-urban Department Manager for LWSSC

In Mtendere East, a key part of this success has been the involvement of the community in the development of the DMM. The role of residents in supporting the DMM, engaging with the services offered and, in some cases, donating land to be used for water kiosks has been critical in ensuring the sustainability of the DMM.

“When the Mtendere East DMM was established we ensured that clear roles and responsibilities were laid out in the service management contract between the DMM and LWSSC. This ensured the local management team were able to provide good customer service and could receive the support they needed from the utility.” – Reuben Sipuma, WSUP Country Programme Manager in Zambia.

There is still much work to do to improve water and sanitation access across Lusaka but WSUP is already working to replicate the success seen in areas like Mtendere East and expand the same model to other cities.

Find out more about how WSUP is improving access to safe water in Lusaka

Covid-19 and crowded urban settlements: how can we stop the spread?

By Sam Drabble, Acting Head of Evaluation, Research & Learning

For the one billion people living in informal urban settlements in the Global South, the spread of coronavirus poses an imminent threat that could prove catastrophic.

A range of factors makes transmission of the virus in these contexts more likely, and the potential impacts even worse than the huge toll now being felt in more developed economies.

One such factor is the very high population density: social distancing and self-isolation are practically impossible in contexts where multiple families share the same compound, cook food in a communal area, and walk the same narrow lanes.

This situation is exacerbated by lack of access to basic services: many of the people living in these communities must leave their premises just to collect water, or to use a toilet which they could be sharing with 10 other families – for which they will often have to queue.

There are many factors at play, and considerable uncertainty. But the fear is that once Covid-19 reaches these areas, the unhygienic conditions will cause it to spread even more rapidly than in Europe, United States and China.

Covid-19: message from our CEO

Like every organisation, WSUP is having to react quickly to this constantly evolving crisis. In most locations where we work, social distancing is now in force. Cities are in lockdown, to varying degrees. All WSUP staff must work from home and cannot for now interact in person with those we exist to support.

But by continuing to work closely with our partner utilities, and with our wider networks at the city and national level, we can still make a difference: to the prospects of the people living in vulnerable communities, and to the people whose job it is to keep these communities supplied with basic services.

Beira, Mozambique. High population density and a lack of access to basic services means coronavirus poses a dire threat across urban areas in the Global South.

We have identified five priority areas in which WSUP and our partners can contribute in the cities where we work:

1. Hygiene promotion campaigns

An effective response to Covid-19 is dependent on clear information and advice. Getting the message across in informal settlements will require a sophisticated and targeted communications strategy. Information flows in these areas can be different from elsewhere, with local groups and community-level structures playing a central role. Community leaders will be critical in driving a crisis response, including local chiefs or councillors.

In Ghana for example, information about the virus has primarily been shared through key mainstream TV and radio outlets, but many people living in informal settlements will get their news from local radio stations serving anywhere between 5,000 – 15,000 people.

As a sector, we need to engage these outlets to ensure the information they relay is aligned with approved messaging from Ministries of Health and with wider government policy in relation to the virus.

Evidently strategies must be adapted to leverage specific cultural norms. In Bangladesh for example, select high-profile celebrities (notably members of the national cricket team) have huge traction with all segments of the population, and could potentially be engaged to push the cause.

2. National urban planning and coordination

Many African governments have been decisive in their immediate response to the crisis, requiring citizens to practice social distancing. The challenge now is to ensure institutions come together to ensure an effective nationwide logistical response.

In several countries where WSUP works, lines of responsibility within the public sector are unclear, and intermediaries can play an important role in supporting coordination. Taking Kenya as one example, this will entail our working in close partnership with a wide range of institutions, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Water and Sanitation, urban water utilities, the National Emergency Coordination Committee, County-level heads of preventive and promotive health, and large and local businesses offering essential services.

In Ghana, our immediate priority is to engage the Ministry of Health and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) to support a coordinated effort to disseminate information about Covid-19 at the community level.

In Kenya WSUP is working in close partnership with a range of institutions such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Water and Sanitation and urban water utilities to support our Covid-19 response.

3. Emergency water tankers and bowsers

To fight Covid-19 the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended social distancing, regular handwashing with soap and practicing respiratory hygiene. But for regular handwashing to be sustained, people must have access to a regular water supply.

Working with our partner utilities to achieve continuity of piped water supply is a core priority for WSUP at all times, but the crisis presents unique challenges, and utilities will struggle to meet the increased demand in some parts of the city.

We need to supplement long-term water provision efforts with emergency water supply systems, including through water tankers and bowsers.

Here an example to follow is Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company: the utility recently announced plans to drill boreholes to boost supply to Nairobi’s informal settlements, where tankers are also now widespread. We are hopeful similar measures will be introduced shortly in Lusaka and other locations.

4. Delivery and distribution of soap and handwashing facilities

As well as water, it is of course critical to ensure the residents of informal settlements have access to handwashing stations and plentiful supplies of soap. This is an area where the private sector has an important role to play, with Unilever and others now exploring ways to accelerate provision of soap and hand sanitizers to vulnerable communities.

In collaboration with these organisations — and as part of ongoing support to our partner utilities — WSUP is helping to identify priority locations in informal settlements so that simple handwashing facilities can be provided and donated soap or sanitizers can get to those in need. This will focus on areas that can offer the most benefit to communities such as local health centres, schools, water kiosks and public toilets.

In Kenya, our partner Nakuru Water has been installing handwashing facilities:

We have continued installing handwashing tanks in various areas in the Town. Today we received tanks from Central Rift Dev. Agency to continue the fight against #COVID19.With @GovLeeKinyanjui @Eng_F_Ngeno
The power is in our hands, let’s keep them clean.#StaySafe #EnrichingLife pic.twitter.com/77y3yDq1QL

— Nakuru Water (@NakuruWater) April 1, 2020

5. Provision of personal protective equipment

In countries where Covid-19 has already taken hold, appreciation has grown for the role of “key workers” – people whose jobs are considered vital to public health and safety. Water and sanitation are basic services and utility workers have an important role to play in crisis mitigation. In a major recent survey, water utility leaders in the United States cited potential staffing shortages due to illness and quarantine as by far their biggest current concern in the pandemic. Utility leaders across Africa and South Asia will share the same fears.

To maintain a regular supply, a portion of utility staff will have to stay mobile, for example to perform urgent service repairs in informal settlements. To protect these individuals, we are working with partner utilities to promote the procurement and provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Acting with the required urgency

WSUP is well-positioned to support crisis mitigation efforts in informal settlements: many of our projects are explicitly focused on these areas, and our operations are built on close working partnerships with the city authorities and utilities mandated to serve them.

But neither we nor anyone else have all the answers – there is just too much uncertainty about how the virus will behave in these communities.

The key point at this moment in time is to identify those activities we know can make a difference, and to move and move quickly. We have a limited window of opportunity to mitigate the devastating effects of Covid-19 taking hold in communities where people are at the greatest risk.

Find out more about WSUP's coronavirus response

Bright water, bright future: climate resilient services in Madagascar

For residents of Antananarivo like Rasoa, access to reliable water sources is essential in the face of increasing water scarcity.

Across the globe climate change is affecting the most vulnerable people in cities the most. For Madagascar’s peri-urban communities alternating severe droughts and flooding are making it harder for people to access safe, clean water sources.

Through the Water and Development Alliance, the United States Agency for Development (USAID), Coca-Cola Foundation and WSUP are helping to create more climate-resilient water systems that support residents like Rasoa.

For Rasoa, access to water is life changing.

“The first time we saw the bright water gushing we felt and hoped that our future will be so bright.”

The service is managed by JIRAMA, the national water utility in Madagascar. Through JIRAMA’s work to establish a water kiosk near her home Rasoa has a reliable source of clean water that doesn’t run out during the dry season. This work across Antananarivo is improving the resilience of the city, protecting those that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Watch the video to learn more.

Learn more about WSUP's work on climate change

From the front line of climate change: residents tell their stories

What does climate change mean for the most vulnerable people living in urban areas?

Ahead of this year’s World Water Day, WSUP has been finding out how climate change affects the water and sanitation needs of city residents.

The following stories give a snapshot of the challenges faced around the world, from rising temperatures in Bangladesh to destruction of water systems in Mozambique.

Follow us on Facebook to read the full stories.

Bangladesh: warmer temperatures and increased flooding

Community leader in Dhaka
Mohsin Howlader, community leader in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Mohsin Howlader, a community leader in Dhaka, told us:

“The summer is getting warmer each year and the demand for drinking water is increasing. I have a family of four and we used to consume one pitcher of drinking water a day in summer, but in recent times we have to fill the pitcher twice.”

In Beguntila, 4,500 people live in a tiny community which has three times the population density of the rest of the city. Five years ago, with WSUP’s support, the community was connected to the main water network, operated by Dhaka Water & Sewerage Authority.

As demand for water increases, there is not always enough water available. Even worse, during the rainy season residents have to cross hazardous flooded areas to fetch water.

Mozambique: recovering from the effects of Cyclone Idai

Henriqueta Luís, a resident of Beira, Mozambique

One year after Cyclone Idai destroyed large parts of the city of Beira, Henriqueta Luís still suffers from lack of clean water.

“Sometimes the water that we drink is unclean and this results in diarrhoea, vomiting and cholera,” she said.

The cyclone destroyed much of the water infrastructure, meaning that Henriqueta frequently has to walk long distances seeking safe water. Even a simple water fountain near to her home would make a huge difference to her life, and WSUP is working with local communities as well as the water utility FIPAG to bring this much needed service to Henriqueta and many others.

As climate change makes extreme weather like cyclones more common, building stronger, more resilient water infrastructure has never been more important.

Zambia: ongoing drought

Kennedy Mpundu, a resident of Livingstone, Zambia

Kennedy Mpundu, a resident in the southern city of Livingstone, said:

“We get water for about five hours in a day and sometimes less, we have experienced very little rainfall in some years… During such times I have had to reduce the size of my vegetable garden or do away with it completely so that I save water.”

In Livingstone, southern Zambia, long-lasting drought over the past year has wreaked havoc on water services. The utility responsible for providing water in the region, Southern Water & Sewerage Company, has seen five sources of water dry up completely.

WSUP is working with the utility and communities to improve water management in Livingstone and increase the ability of residents living in informal settlements to access water services.

Find out more about WSUP's work on climate change

Game changers in water and sanitation: WSUP’s vision for change

Highlights from a panel discussion on the challenges and solutions to the water crisis.

On 25th February, WSUP was joined by a panel of experts to discuss the challenges of improving water and sanitation in the backdrop of increasing urbanisation and climate change. Andy Roby, Senior Water Security Adviser at DFID, Liz Lowe, Head of Sustainability at Coca-Cola Great Britain, WSUP’s CEO Neil Jeffery and panel moderator Paul Nuki, Global Heath Security Editor at The Telegraph brought a diverse range of perspectives from the private sector to political economy and governance.

WSUP’s latest business plan demonstrates the need for enhanced partnerships and collaboration between different components of the global system to drive large scale change in urban water and sanitation.

Read the Business Plan.

The event brought together journalists, corporates and NGOs, all united by a shared sense of urgency to improve water and sanitation systems in the face of climate change.

Key takeaways were:

  • The need to vastly increase the reuse of water
  • Urgency and global leadership around the water crisis
  • Practical business models and public-private partnerships

WSUP’s CEO, Neil Jeffery set the scene by highlighting the urban landscape WSUP operates in and the challenges around water in cities. By 2050 the proportion of the world’s population living in urban areas is expected to increase to 68%. Combined with population growth, we could see another 2.5 billion people in urban areas by 2050, the majority in Asia and Africa. Increasing urbanisation, especially in cities in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia where water and sanitation coverage is already low, poses a significant challenge to achieving SDG 6: water and sanitation for all. In fact, progress towards SDG 6 is declining in many urban areas.

Andy advocated a political economy approach, stating that we need good governance and regulation as a prerequisite to facilitate the flow of investment into water and sanitation. WSUP has been working to do exactly this.

In Kenya WSUP had a transformative impact through working directly with the national water regulator, WASREB, to develop a new key performance indicator (KPI 10) to define the standards of services for every water utility serving low-income urban communities across Kenya. Learn more

WSUP’s work with utilities across Kenya is benefitting fishmongers like Nancy Adhiambo in Nairobi. Photographer: Brian Otieno

The growing impact of climate change

When discussing climate change and water, the need to manage this finite resource more effectively and to elevate the importance of the issue were clear.

Bringing a corporate social responsibility perspective, Liz Lowe from Coca-Cola highlighted how businesses want to be seen to be doing the right thing. She championed nature-based solutions alongside the conservation and regeneration of water, a shared resource, highlighting how businesses need to think about water not just in their own system, but also the wider catchment to shore up resiliency. For example, how is water use at point A affecting the farmer at point B? Looking at the wider catchment, the area of land that water drains through to reach a body of water, will allow us to have a more complete understanding of how water usage at certain point affects the rest of the natural system.

Articulating the dynamics between government and civil society, Andy noted how DFID’s trajectory on climate change is largely dependent on government ministers, who in turn are influenced by public opinion. In the past year public opinion on climate change has transformed with Greta Thunberg and the likes of Extinction Rebellion pushing the issue. Climate change is one of the number one priorities for many investors, but in comparison, very little is spent on downstream water issues and the reuse of water.

WSUP is working to improve wastewater management in cities by a number of means: better risk management, monitoring, treatment of human waste and developing end-to-end sanitation services that collect and treat waste. Learn more.

“When I visit leaders in cities, often the first question they ask is ‘how can I get more water?’”, said Neil. “I tell them you have enough – you’re just not managing it well enough.”

Huge amounts of water are lost through pipe leakages  and for cities in water scarce areas, this is a crucial challenge. The UN states that by 2030 the demand for water is expected to outstrip supply by 40%. It is vital we increase the reuse of waste through wastewater treatment and decrease water loss in the network.

WSUP has been working with JIRAMA, the national water utility in Madagascar to support their capacity to detect and fix leaks in Antananarivo’s water network. Madagascar is one of the most climate vulnerable countries in Africa; preserving this precious resource has never been more urgent.

What’s the game changer?

Global leadership, urgency and business models were all identified as game changers in responding to the complex water and sanitation crisis.

Neil emphasised that the crisis is a systems issue which needs a systems approach with far higher levels of investment, as championed in WSUP’s new business plan. There is strong demand for water and sanitation in cities, but challenges remain around investment.

Creating effective business models for low income customers is very difficult. WSUP’s sanitation waste management service has SWEEP has helped to tackle this issue, blending high-and low-income customers through a subsidy which is built into the business model.

Watch: how SWEEP is providing an affordable and sustainable pit emptying service.

Rani Begum from Rangpur, Bangladesh is benefitting from SWEEP, the public-private pit emptying service created by WSUP.

The importance of water as a finite resource was highlighted by Liz, who stated that water underpins everything, yet is still taken for granted in much of the world. There is a lack of urgency in responding to the issue. Businesses need to feel a sense of urgency around water to foster faster collaboration and public-private collaboration is essential.

On a similar note, Andy highlighted that whilst the annual World Water Week in Stockholm is crucial for discussion in the sector, there is not yet enough global leadership on the water crisis. When will water have its ‘David Attenborough’ moment to flip the issue?

To learn more about WSUP’s vision for change and how we plan to reach 50 million people by 2050, read our new business plan.