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What is water worth?

March 22nd 2021 at 13:21

To mark World Water Day, 22 March, WSUP is shining a light on the value of water: the theme for this year’s campaign.

Water brings value in so many ways, whether it is through education, employment, nutrition, health, or environmental protection. Safeguarding this precious resource for the benefit of everyone is critical.

Watch the video to see how people value water:

This World Water Day, let’s take a stand to protect this precious and finite resource.

Learn more about valuing water:

How communities are managing water services in Madagascar

The value of water in small towns in Ghana

The importance of clean water in the garment industry in Bangladesh


Weaknesses in water, sanitation and hygiene systems exposed by pandemic, say experts

February 24th 2021 at 17:43

Highlights from a panel discussion on how cities are adapting to challenges such as the Covid-19 crisis.

At a WSUP event held yesterday, a panel of expert speakers outlined the challenges faced in the urban water, sanitation and hygiene sector as a result of Covid-19, and made recommendations on priorities for the sector.

The Adapting in a Time of Crisis event assessed the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries and was moderated by Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer, BT and a member of the WSUP Board.

A recording of the online event is available here

Gerald Mwambire, Managing Director, Malindi Water & Sewerage Company, Kenya started off the event by highlighting how the Covid-19 pandemic has put a strain on service provision.

β€œThe government issued directives that we need to provide water [for free], because water is so important for mitigating Covid. But when we are giving free water, that means we have low revenue collection,” he said. Without subsidies from the government, Mwambire added, utilities have struggled to operate effectively.


2020 was a year of doing things differently, and of innovating rapidly to combat constantly shifting threats.

Jeff Goldberg, Director, Center for Water Security, Sanitation and Hygiene, USAID, highlighted how the crisis has been a forcing event to accelerate digital technologies in the sector to address the water and sanitation challenge.

As an example, Mwambire spoke of how in Malindi, the utility was compelled to look at SMS billing and smart meters to reduce the risk of customers and frontline staff being exposed to Covid-19.

Report: Smart meters: innovating to improve water supply in a post-Covid context

The informal settlement of Bangladesh, in Mombasa, Kenya
Crowded urban settlements such as this community in Mombasa, Kenya, are highly exposed to the pandemic – making good hygiene a vital part of daily life

Helena Dollimore, Senior Manager, Global Sustainability, Unilever, spoke about how Unilever worked with development actors who are already serving low-income income residents through the Hygiene & Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC). This included helping NGOs to adapt their work to the digital space and using mass media and digital channels to promote hygiene messaging.

In Kenya for example, through the HBCC programme, WSUP was able to use SMS hygiene messaging through our existing work with utilities who made use of their customer databases to reach a large number of low-income residents with vital information.

Read more about WSUP’s Covid-19 response

Stronger utilities

At WSUP we believe that utilities are the solution to comprehensive, safe water access in cities.

However, the Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the vulnerability of utilities’ financial positions. Many utilities were – understandably – required to provide water for free to help in the fight against the pandemic, but this has come at severe costs for their sustainability and financial viability.

Investing in utilities and helping them become financially stable is crucial for improving services for the people most in need, and it is one of the most important steps that we can take to tackle the water crisis.

Read more about how WSUP is working with utilities to improve services

Andrea Jones, Program Officer, International Programs, Hilton Foundation said, β€œThe blanket safety net approach has put service providers in a precarious position…We need to ensure utilities can reach the poor and vulnerable.”

Frank Kettey, Country Programme Manager, Ghana, WSUP, added: β€œThe role that utilities play is crucial, and we all need to work towards supporting them to ensure they emerge stronger after the pandemic.”

Goldberg remarked that the crisis has given us the opportunity to look at the fundamentals of governance, policy, cost recovery and ensuring we build financially stable utilities that can withstand any kind of crisis moving forward.

Read WSUP’s report on regulation in the sanitation sector: Referee! Responsibilities, regulations and regulating for urban sanitation

Continuous water supply for all and climate change

β€œIf climate change was a shark, then water would be the teeth of it,” said Dollimore, highlighting the link between climate change and water.

Climate change is threatening water and sanitation systems in cities. 74% of all natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 have been water related.Β  Whether the problem is too much water or too little water, it is damaging people’s ability to have access to decent services.

In the face of this growing challenge, building the resilience of service providers has never been more important.

WSUP's Utility Strengthening Framework
WSUP’s Utility Strengthening Framework is helping build resiliency within the water sector

In order to deliver services to the poorest residents, utilities need to improve effectiveness across the breadth of their operations. WSUP’s Utility Strengthening Framework uses eight steps to move towards a stronger utility.

Neil Jeffery, Chief Executive of WSUP, highlighted how following the cyclones that hit Beira in Mozambique in 2019, WSUP had to work with city authorities to build back better. He argued that adapting to climate change needs to become standard process within urban development and within those institutions providing water, sanitation and hygiene.

Read more about how WSUP is helping cities to become climate resilient

The last 12 months have shown us that even in a crisis – or perhaps because of a crisis – change is possible. As Jones commented, although the Covid-19 crisis has brought to the forefront the gaps in water, sanitation and hygiene systems, it has also provided an opportunity for leaders to address these challenges.

WSUP is determined to play its part in driving the change needed.

WSUP's priorities: read our 2020-2025 Business Plan

Climate resilience in Southern Zambia – new report

August 26th 2020 at 13:31

Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor has today published a new report on the need for water and sanitation service providers in Southern Zambia to become more resilient in the face of climate change.

Building resilience to climate change experiences from Southern ZambiaThe report, entitled, Building resilience to climate change: experiences from Southern Zambia, focuses on water shortage in the Zambezi river basin and the steps that the water utility Southern Water & Sanitation Company Limited (SWSC) is taking in response.

Read the report now.

As the effects of man-made climate change become more pronounced, water shortages are becoming more common throughout Africa, with Southern Africa a particular climate change hotspot.

The challenges brought about by climate change are too fundamental to be solved simply by drilling new boreholes to access new water. Instead, utilities need to assess all parts of their operations, from financial management, to governance, customer engagement and staff capacity.

WSUP Utility Strengthening FrameworkThe report also presents the different stages of WSUP’s Utility Strengthening Framework, which uses eight steps to move towards a stronger utility. Click on the image to see the full size graphic.

SWSC has seen its water source shrink significantly in recent years, most notably in 2018-2019, where many regions in Southern Zambia only received 20-30% of the normal annual rainfall.

As a result, WSUP has been working closely with SWSC, with the support of Wasser fuer Wasser, to develop and implement a utility strengthening programme to help it build resilience in the face of growing climate change.

Read Building resilience to climate change: experiences from Southern Zambia now


Marketing the un-marketable? Selling sanitation in Bangladesh

July 30th 2020 at 12:51

In an environment where many are unwilling to pay for sanitation, how can we promote safe services?

In Bangladesh, WSUP is trialling different marketing models to encourage greater uptake of services.

We tested door-to-door brand promoters with promotions running in trusted shops (retail agents), to find out which were more effective at targeting different stages of the customer journey.

We also looked at how these marketing approaches could best link with a sanitation service’s existing processes, so that sales leads could be retained and converted when the customer was ready.

Watch our video to find out what we learnt:

The work was supported by TRANSFORM, a programme led by Unilever and the UK’s Department for International Development. TRANSFORM is a collaboration between business, government and civil society, leveraging their respective strengths to address the world’s most pressing development challenges.

Learn more about WSUP's work to build a stronger customer experience.

Our response to Covid-19: CEO message

March 25th 2020 at 18:24

Access to clean water and good hygiene have never been more important.

A message from our CEO Neil Jeffery

I wanted to share with you an update on WSUP’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the last week, we have been working tirelessly to reorient our organisation – getting staff back to their home countries, changing work practices, bolstering our technology systems and working out revised work plans for our operations around the world.

In the communities where we work, though, the crisis continues to grow. We are extremely concerned for the health and safety of people living in the fragile urban communities where WSUP focuses its attention. We are considering how we can strengthen WSUP’s role in the hygiene response.

Poor hygiene, and high population density means that an outbreak of Coronavirus in slum communities could be truly catastrophic. Mindful of this, we have seen authorities in the countries where we are working act quickly to limit the risk of disease transmission; and thankfully, the outbreaks in these countries to date have been small, at least compared to those in other parts of the world.

But this outbreak tells us that we need to act, more than ever, to address poor hygiene in growing urban populations. Many people are not aware of the critical importance of good hygiene; and even if they are, they may lack the soap and clean water to regularly wash their hands.

We have a duty to the communities where we work to consider ways in which we can assist them to improve hygiene, either through digital messaging, or by other means.

We are developing our plans on this and will do what we can to support urban authorities and utilities in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as they seek to address this issue. We have experience of implementing major handwashing promotion campaigns and our teams are considering how we can best adapt our response in each of our programme countries.

To all of our partners, we are grateful for your continued understanding, patience and valued support.

Best regards,


Find out more about WSUP's Covid-19 response

Solving the big challenges of inclusive services through peer-to-peer learning

January 14th 2020 at 12:33

There is no greater way for city authorities and regulators to learn about developing inclusive water and sanitation services than from their peers – other institutions around the world who are confronting similar issues.

That was the thinking behind the Urban WASH Inclusion Masterclass 2019, organised by WSUP and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and held in Maputo, Mozambique in December.

We wanted to provide a space where institutions could speak openly about the shared challenges they are dealing with every day. We also wanted to highlight the institutions that are making real change, and enable other institutions to work out whether they can learn from these successes and adapt them for their own use.

Around 80 people from 11 countries across sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia – principally representatives of utilities, municipalities, regulators, ministries and NGOs – came together for a programme of peer-to-peer learning focused on inclusive service delivery. The event also considered how experiences from rural settings could inform urban services.

We focused on:

  • How can utilities transform to achieve inclusive water services delivery?
  • How can city authorities support inclusive sanitation services delivery?
  • How can regulatory authorities support and incentivise inclusive service delivery?
  • How can we better implement equality and non-discrimination approaches to ensure genuinely equitable service delivery?

Watch the video to learn more.

WSUP publishes new Business Plan 2020-2025

October 31st 2019 at 10:08

WSUP has today, World Cities Day, published its new Business Plan outlining its priorities for the period 2020-2025.

Read the Business Plan now:

WSUP Business Plan 2020-2025

The plan is based around five Strategic Goals, which reflect our vision for changing the ability of cities to provide basic services to the poorest residents.

Strategic Goals:

β€œThere are 10 years to go until the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals, and SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation is well off track,” said Neil Jeffery, Chief Executive of WSUP. β€œTo have any chance of meeting SDG 6, the world has got to start scaling up approaches that work.”

β€œSince our creation in 2005 we’ve been absolutely focused on finding mechanisms that can deliver improved water and sanitation at scale: not just in sporadic communities, but right across entire cities. Our new Business Plan is all about scale, and integrating our proven models into wider urbanisation programmes.”

β€œWe hope you will join us to focus on this vitally important priority.”

Download the report now.