Editor’s Note: This post comes from the Water Point Data Exchange, an initiative aimed at creating a standard for water point data collection to allow for better information sharing across organizations working in WASH. The Exchange invites those working in the sector to provide feedback on their draft standard, available here. The public comment period will be open through March 15.
No challenge in eradicating water poverty is as pressing as improving sustainability by ensuring continuous high-quality drinking water service provision. High failure rates in the WASH sector squander scarce financial resources. Further, broken water systems can cause harm to millions of people in the Global South who have invested their own time and resources and come to depend on these systems. Despite knowledge of this issue for decades and increased attention over the past few years, there is still a severe lack of understanding about the true nature of this challenge. Limited available data on water points has stymied efforts to better understand and improve sustainability. Facing these challenges, the water sector is at a pivotal point in history where data can play a vital role in the eradication of water poverty.
The amount of water point data is increasing as more organizations and governments monitor their water point functionality over time. Unfortunately this progress has been accompanied by increasingly numerous unique methods through which data is collected, stored and shared. As a result, new data is creating new “data islands.” These emerging monitoring efforts will have limited impact on improving programming and sustainability as long as the data remains inaccessible on organizational servers, in PDF reports, and in proprietary monitoring systems. Unless these different data sources can be harmonized, the learnings will be small and piecemeal, with the true potential of this information remaining untapped.
The Water Point Data Exchange (WPDx) plans to harness this momentum by working with the water sector to create a standard for water point data sharing. To learn more about efforts to develop a framework for sharing this data, view the webinar, hosted by Global Water Challenge, on February 5:
Based on this standard, WPDx will create an effective central hub for the standard-compliant data and will engage the WASH sector to make full use of this dynamic hub, both for sharing and utilizing data. Ultimately, this initiative will transform a growing body of disconnected data into improved water services for millions.
To make this initiative work, we need your input! The WPDx Working Group is inviting water access experts from around the world to provide feedback on the draft standard, available at https://collaborase.com/wpdx. This public comment period will close March 15, so please share your feedback soon. It will only take a moment, and no registration is required. Click here to review the draft standard and share your feedback now.
Imagine a day in which your access to clean, drinkable water ceased and you could not shower or bathe properly and you had no one to help you. For more than 783 million people around the world, that day was today. In 2015, more than 2.5 billion people will also lack access to basic sanitation in the developing world.
A new initiative led by Nevada’s Desert Research Institute (DRI) is aiming to dramatically reduce those numbers, focusing specifically on women -- who often bear the brunt of the impact from lack of access to safe water; and in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa walk up to four hours per day, on average, to carry clean water back to their villages and families.
“As part of DRI’s Global Water Knowledge Campaign, this Initiative builds on more than 20 years of water research and training our scientists have done in West Africa,” said Dr. Stephen Wells, DRI President. “By raising support to provide women throughout these developing countries with access to adequate water sources and access to training we will ensure their family’s well-being and allow them more time to contribute to their villages.”
The DRI Sustainable Water Initiative is a unique, international collaboration with WaterAid, Water for People, and World Vision. Collaboratively, these three world renowned organizations currently have water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs in more than 41 countries. Since 1981, WaterAid has helped 21.2 million people gain access to safe water. In 2013, Water for People raised more than $14 million to support their “Everyone Forever” campaign, providing water and sanitation services in more than 15 countries. Currently, World Vision’s WASH programs reach one million beneficiaries per year.
“The knowledge and experience of these organizations working together (in the WASH sector) will be transformational for the regions being served,” said Charles Creigh, DRI Foundation Chair. “Through a generous challenge-grant investment from two long-time DRI Foundation leaders this global campaign plans to support DRI faculty and students helping to advance our knowledge of water related issues and improve people’s lives and well-being.”
Dr. Braimah Apambire, who will lead the new Initiative and serves as director of DRI’s Center for International Water and Sustainability, explained that funding will go directly to supporting provision of safe drinking water and basic sanitation; creating and implementing WASH education materials for women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa; training of WASH staff; applied water research; and ensuring that WASH projects are sustainable and scalable in developing countries.
The impact of unsafe water, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene is felt around the world, with both human health and economic implications, Apambire explained.
In places like sub-Saharan Africa a significant percentage of the population is at risk of dying from preventable illnesses, many of which are linked to WASH issues. More than 500,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation - that's over 1,400 children per day. Diarrhea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old in sub-Saharan Africa.
In economic terms, 5.6 billion productive work days are lost every year due to complications arising from water-related diseases and the burden of fetching water.
Helping to manage and raise awareness for the DRI Sustainable Water Initiative will be Global Impact, a well-known leader in growing global philanthropy. Global Impact works with approximately 450 public and private workplace giving campaigns to generate funding for an alliance of more than 120 international charities. Since 1956, Global Impact has generated more than $1.7 billion to help the world’s most vulnerable people.
“One organization working alone is not enough to make the sustainable difference that is needed in the WASH sector,” said Scott Jackson, President and CEO of Global Impact. “All of these stakeholders working together will help ensure access to clean water, which does more than save a woman’s life – it ensures her future.”
For more information about DRI’s Sustainable Water Initiative visit - https://dri-water.charity.org/
Editor’s Note: This post is authored by Cor Dietvorst, Programme Officer at IRC. In his piece, Cor discusses the monitoring requirements surrounding India’s Swachh Bharat program, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched in October 2014 with the aim of ending open defecation in the country by 2019. He compares India’s sanitation monitoring initiative with other large-scale monitoring efforts with which IRC has been involved in Bangladesh and Indonesia. This post originally appeared here on the IRC blog.
According to some media the Indian government has unleashed “toilet police” or “toilet gestapo” into the country.1 In fact, the central government has instructed local officials to take photographs of new toilets to prove that they have not only been constructed but are also being used. If states don’t upload photos by February 2015, the water and sanitation ministry has threatened to withhold funding from a new national sanitation programme.2
Open defecation free by 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission on 2 October 2014. His aim is to attain a 100 percent open defecation free India by 2019. Since the launch, over half a million household toilets have been constructed.3
By implementing “real time monitoring” the government hopes it can correct past mistakes caused by ineffective monitoring and wasted investment in sanitation. The 2011 census revealed that 43% of government funded toilets were either “missing” or non-functional.4 Now the government wants to show that its investments in sanitation are delivering lasting results.
The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation is appointing around two dozen additional staff including two joint secretaries and four directors to strengthen the implementation and monitoring of the Swachh Bharat Mission. An Expert Committee for innovative sanitation technologies and a national telephone helpline for rural water supply and sanitation are other new initiatives that will support the Mission.5
Local officials charged with monitoring toilet construction and use need to download an app on a mobile device. The app allows them to upload photos as well as the personal data and geo-coordinates of the beneficiaries to a public website. Progress is slow though: as of 14 January 2015, data of less than half a percent (2,383) of the newly constructed toilets has been recorded. Data collected before 2015 does not include toilet use.
How do other countries carry out large-scale monitoring?
Compared to examples of large-scale sanitation monitoring in Bangladesh and Indonesia, the toilet use indicators collected in India -- is the toilet in use, is it clean and is water available -- are rather limited.
The BRAC WASH programme in Bangladesh uses benchmark indicators developed by IRC for questions like: do all household members use toilets, do they use them at all times, and are there provisions for handwashing and pit emptying.6
In Indonesia IRC has helped design a monitoring system for the SHAW (Sanitation, Hygiene and Water) programme, where every three months 20,000 community volunteers visit more than 300,000 households. For SHAW monitoring is not merely an accountability tool as it is in India, but a way to motivate and encourage people to improve their sanitation facilities and hygiene behaviour.7
India's decision to track toilet use as part of its new monitoring initiative is a major step forward. From its neighbours, India can draw valuable lessons on how to monitor sanitation as a sustainable service that benefits all.
2 Letter to Principal Secretary/Secretaries in charge of Rural Sanitation all States and UTs. Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation, 05 Dec 2014
3 Unused rural toilets to face public scrutiny, The Hindu, 01 Jan 2015
4 Tiwari, R. The case of the missing toilets. India Today, 02 Oct 2014. See also: Hueso, A. & Bell, B., 2013. An untold story of policy failure : the Total Sanitation Campaign in India. Water policy ; 15 (6), pp.1001–1017. DOI: 10.2166/wp.2013.032. and Hueso, A., 2014. The untold story of India's sanitation failure, Addendum. Community-Led Total Sanitation.org, 11 Mar 2014
5 Nationwide monitoring of use of toilets will be launched from January, 2015, PIB, 31 Dec 2014
6 IRC - Monitoring at scale in BRAC WASH
7 Baetings, E., 2014. How are you and how is your loo?
The investment by the USAID-Skoll Innovation Investment Alliance will fund the installation of more than ten thousand low-cost chlorine dispensers, providing clean water to an additional 3.2 million people by the end of the year. Launched in 2012 and supported by the humanitarian organization Mercy Corps, the alliance has committed $44.5 million over five years to scale up ten proven, cost-effective, and sustainable social ventures working to effect systems-level change in Africa.
In Uganda, just 10 percent of the population has access to piped water, and approximately twenty-three thousand people die of diarrheal diseases annually. Such diseases are among the leading causes of childhood death on the continent.
Evidence Action's chlorine dispensers are placed at local water sources to enable users to easily add a precise dose of chlorine to their water, making it safe to drink. Dispensers cost approximately 50 cents per user per year at scale, and Evidence Action finances operations through carbon credits it receives because its chlorine dispensers make it unnecessary for people to boil water using fossil fuels.
"USAID and Skoll Foundation Announce Joint Investment in Evidence Action for Clean Water in Uganda." Skoll Foundation Press Release 02/04/2015.
According to the company, women around the world spend a collective two hundred million hours a year collecting clean water for their families. The company’s Buy a Lady a Drink campaign aims to make clean water more accessible and promote awareness of the global water crisis by inviting consumers to purchase limited-edition chalices inspired by traditional handcrafted objects from three of the developing countries where Water.org operates, including textiles from India, baskets from Ethiopia, and pottery from Honduras. Proceeds from the campaign will help support the nonprofit organization.
In addition, Stella Artois and Water.org have enlisted a number of creative artists to produce films and photography for the campaign. They include Grammy Award-nominated directors Frederick Scott and Nicholas Jack Davies and photographer Chris Ozer, who traveled to India to film and photograph real stories of women who have been affected by the water crisis.
"Water.org’s current success shows we can make a difference in solving the water crisis," said Stella Artois global vice president Debora Koyama. "As a key ingredient in our beers, water is a natural resource Stella Artois aims to protect and preserve."
"Stella Artois and Water.org, With the Support of Co-Founders Matt Damon and Gary White, Launch “Buy a Lady a Drink” to Help Stop Women’s Journeys to Collect Water in the Developing World." Stella Artois Press Release 01/22/2015.
Learn how you can support coordinated data-driven decision making in the WASH sector. Join the Water Point Data Exchange for their webinar on the ongoing sector-wide efforts to support the sharing of water point data across diverse stakeholders in WASH.
The one hour webinar will take place next Thursday, February 5 at 11 AM ET. Click on the flyer below to learn more and register for the event.
Editor's Note: This guest blog post was authored by Shauna Curry, CEO of the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST). In her post, Shauna highlights the capacity gap that exists in the WASH sector due to a shortage in skills and the scarcity of local water and sanitation professionals. She describes the central focus that CAWST has placed on human resources and capacity building for WASH and suggests a number of ways in which funders in the sector can work to narrow this gap.
Two recent reports by the International Water Association and UN-Water draw attention to a WASH capacity gap crisis.
These reports mark a major step forward to illustrate what many in the WASH sector have experienced first-hand: a shortage in the skills and number of local WASH sector workers undermines the success and sustainability of WASH interventions and stands in the way of universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
The first of the two reports was released in late September by the International Water Association, "An Avoidable Crisis: WASH Human Resource Capacity Gaps in 15 Developing Economies". More recently, the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) report was released.
Millions of WASH practitioners are needed
The IWA report notes that the Millennium Development Goals sparked spending on WASH infrastructure, technological innovation and institutional reform. But human knowledge and skills have been left behind.
"This investment has not been accompanied by the necessary focus on the size, competencies and enabling environment for the human resource base needed to design, construct, operate and maintain such services" the report says.
The IWA study found that 787,200 trained water and sanitation professionals are needed, in 10 of the countries studied, to reach universal coverage. That sampling suggests that across the developing world, there is a shortage of skilled WASH practitioners that numbers well into the millions.
Beneath the capacity gap is a funding gap
Meanwhile, the latest GLAAS report illuminates the funding shortfall in addressing the WASH capacity gap, with less than one per cent of WASH aid commitments in 2012 directed at education and training.
We cannot expect to narrow the WASH capacity gap unless we address the funding gap. The lack of in-country expertise is a direct outcome of the chronic under-funding of WASH skills training.
Capacity-focused interventions drive action and innovation
Over the past 13 years, CAWST has exclusively focused on building the capacity of the WASH sector. We have seen first-hand the direct and immediate impact of providing WASH capacity-building services to over 800 WASH organizations in 68 countries. We have also seen a wide-spread multiplier effect of this strategy, as 3.3 million people have been trained by other organizations using our education and training materials.
Capacity development is a powerful tool to enable entrepreneurship – in the sense of taking initiative to respond to local needs and conditions. Providing practical knowledge and skills that project implementers and decision-makers can apply immediately increases WASH project quality and sustainability by developing the ability, confidence and motivation of practitioners to start, strengthen and grow projects. Such practical knowledge and skills can range from basic technical skills in point-of-use water treatment approaches and technologies, to hand pump repair, as well as softer skills such as building effective facilitation skills and WASH education program development.
When knowledge and skills reside locally, people take action in innovative ways, and train and mentor others.
Training isn't enough
Training activities are often seen as secondary, rather than being a core strategy to achieve results. Complicating the matter, the limited ability to evaluate the quality and impact of training has obscured the ineffectiveness of many WASH training efforts.
Over the past decade we have learnt that combining training with ongoing technical and implementation support, along with subsidies for organizations that can’t afford it, provides an "on-the-job" practical approach to capacity building. Ongoing technical support can be anything from a phone call, Skype conversation or email to discuss technology options and implementation hurdles, to a multi-day onsite visit to improve project monitoring, among other forms of support.
Providing ongoing coaching, mentoring and professional development supports implementers as needed at each stage of their development and helps them overcome challenges.
Capacity development must be measured at the outcome level, consistently year after year
Designing effective training and education programs is difficult. Evaluating their impact is even harder, which may be one of the reasons funders shy away from supporting this much needed arena. CAWST suggests measuring what people do with the training, not how many people are trained.
In recent studies undertaken by CAWST, Cambridge and Cranfield of over 100 WASH capacity building organizations, only 1/3 reported capacity building results. For those who report, the majority of the results are at the output level, rather than at the outcome level. CAWST’s key performance metric is "number of people with safe water" (vs "number of people trained"). This metric keeps CAWST focused on ensuring that knowledge and skills reside locally, and that our capacity development activities result in action.
We must also recognize that the impact of building capacity often goes well beyond short term outcomes as people are empowered, take their skills to the next project and pass on their knowledge to others.
Funders can lead the way
WASH funders have the potential to be game-changers in narrowing the capacity gap. As we’ve seen with the sanitation sector, which has received renewed focus and increased funding in recent years, WASH funders can build similar momentum to take on the capacity gap.
What can funders do to close the gap?
- Digest and understand the data. The "capacity gap" can seem harder to define and address than infrastructure, but the growing body of evidence is showing that the WASH capacity gap will continue to hamper WASH progress until we tackle it head-on.
- Focus on skills and knowledge, alongside infrastructure, that will increase local capability to identify, implement and sustain WASH solutions that are appropriate to the local context.
- See the WASH capacity gap as an area where funders can lead, and do so proudly.
- Look for and replicate capacity development approaches that create enabling environments for entrepreneurship, innovation and sustained impact at the scale needed.
The IWA and GLAAS reports draw attention to the large capacity gap and are a call to action to address the need. They illustrate the crisis, but also provide strategic recommendations for our sector. Without a focus on knowledge and skills, WASH infrastructure and service delivery will fail.
I watched the piles of feces go up the conveyer belt and drop into a large bin. They made their way through the machine, getting boiled and treated. A few minutes later I took a long taste of the end result: a glass of delicious drinking water.
The occasion was a tour of a facility that burns human waste and produces water and electricity (plus a little ash). I have visited lots of similar sites, like power plants and paper mills, so when I heard about this one—it’s part of the Gates Foundation’s effort to improve sanitation in poor countries—I was eager to check it out.
The water tasted as good as any I’ve had out of a bottle. And having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe.
Here’s a short video from my visit in November, which explains how it all works:
Why would anyone want to turn waste into drinking water and electricity?
Because a shocking number of people, at least 2 billion, use latrines that aren’t properly drained. Others simply defecate out in the open. The waste contaminates drinking water for millions of people, with horrific consequences: Diseases caused by poor sanitation kill some 700,000 children every year, and they prevent many more from fully developing mentally and physically.
If we can develop safe, affordable ways to get rid of human waste, we can prevent many of those deaths and help more children grow up healthy.
Western toilets aren’t the answer, because they require a massive infrastructure of sewer lines and treatment plants that just isn’t feasible in many poor countries. So a few years ago our foundation put out a call for new solution.
One idea is to reinvent the toilet, which I’ve written about before.
Another idea—and the goal of the project I toured—is to reinvent the sewage treatment plant. The project is called the Omniprocessor, and it was designed and built by Janicki Bioenergy, an engineering firm based north of Seattle. I recently went to Janicki’s headquarters to check out an Omniprocessor before the start of a pilot project in Senegal.
The Omniprocessor is a safe repository for human waste. Today, in many places without modern sewage systems, truckers take the waste from latrines and dump it into the nearest river or the ocean—or at a treatment facility that doesn’t actually treat the sewage. Either way, it often ends up in the water supply. If they took it to the Omniprocessor instead, it would be burned safely. The machine runs at such a high temperature (1000 degrees Celsius) that there’s no nasty smell; in fact it meets all the emissions standards set by the U.S. government.
Before we even started the tour, I had a question: Don’t modern sewage plants already incinerate waste? I learned that some just turn the waste into solids that are stored in the desert. Others burn it using diesel or some other fuel that they buy. That means they use a lot of energy, which makes them impractical in most poor countries.
The Omniprocessor solves that problem. Through the ingenious use of a steam engine, it produces more than enough energy to burn the next batch of waste. In other words, it powers itself, with electricity to spare. The next-generation processor, more advanced than the one I saw, will handle waste from 100,000 people, producing up to 86,000 liters of potable water a day and a net 250 kw of electricity.
If we get it right, it will be a good example of how philanthropy can provide seed money that draws bright people to work on big problems, eventually creating a self-supporting industry. Our foundation is funding Janicki to do the development. It’s really amazing to see how they’ve embraced the work; founder Peter Janicki and his family have traveled to Africa and India multiple times so they can see the scope of the problem. Our goal is to make the processors cheap enough that entrepreneurs in low- and middle-income countries will want to invest in them and then start profitable waste-treatment businesses.
We still have a lot to learn before we get to that point. The next step is the pilot project; later this year, Janicki will set up an Omniprocessor in Dakar, Senegal, where they’ll study everything from how you connect with the local community (the team is already working with leaders there) to how you pick the most convenient location. They will also test one of the coolest things I saw on my tour: a system of sensors and webcams that will let Janicki’s engineers control the processor remotely and communicate with the team in Dakar so they can diagnose any problems that come up.
The history of philanthropy is littered with well-intentioned inventions that never deliver on their promise. Hopefully, these early steps will help us make sure the Omniprocessor doesn’t join the list. If things go well in Senegal, we’ll start looking for partners in the developing world. For example I think it could be a great fit in India, where there are lots of entrepreneurs who could own and operate the processors, as well as companies with the skill to manufacture many of the parts.
It might be many years before the processor is being used widely. But I was really impressed with Janicki’s engineering. And I’m excited about the business model. The processor wouldn’t just keep human waste out of the drinking water; it would turn waste into a commodity with real value in the marketplace. It’s the ultimate example of that old expression: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Copyright 2010 Gates Notes, LLC
As 2014 comes to a close, we’re looking back and taking stock of the variety of topics featured on the WASHfunders blog this year – from corporate philanthropy and sector sustainability to newly produced WASH resources. Our countdown of the top five most popular blog posts from 2014 reflects this variety.
After visiting WaterAid’s WASH programs in Kampala, Uganda, Senior Communications Advisor for WaterAid America, Libby Plumb, illustrates how the adoption of prepaid water meters has helped to increase access to safe water in the city’s slums.
In November, Dr. Greg Allgood of World Vision wrote about the legitimate role that philanthropy and charity play in WASH service provision. In his post, Dr. Allgood observes that while business solutions currently dominate conversations around the global water crisis, hundreds of millions of people without WASH services are not served by these for-profit models and that, instead of favoring one approach above the other, both are needed.
In India, achieving access to sanitation in areas without sewage infrastructure is a challenge that is increasingly being addressed through the production and provision of composting toilets. In his post from August, Sanjay Banka, Director at Banka BioLoo, describes the process by which these toilets break down waste and the business model that his company employs to ensure sustainability while producing a high-quality product.
As a participant in our ‘5 Questions’ series, David Auerbach of Sanergy explains his organization’s approach to addressing the entire sanitation value chain by building franchise network of micro-entrepreneurs who purchase and operate Sanergy’s Fresh Life Toilets in the slums of Nairobi.
The most visited blog post of 2014 was the first in a series of three posts written by staff at Evidence Action about their Dispensers for Safe Water (DSW) initiative. In this post, Evidence Action Executive Director, Alix Zwane, lauds the growing support for data-driven development. She points to the DSW as one such example of a WASH innovation whose scaling was justified by the rigorous testing that found it to be a sustainable and cost-effective means of increasing access to safe water.
We aim to represent the diversity of issues, challenges, and innovations that make up the WASH sector and to succeed in doing so, we need your help! To contribute a post to the WASHfunders blog in 2015, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!
Launched as part of last month’s celebrations for World Toilet Day, the Toilet Board Coalition is a business-led initiative that aims to develop commercially scalable solutions in response to the global sanitation crisis.
Initiated by Unilever in 2012, the Toilet Board Coalition brings together a number of businesses, government agencies, and other WASH organizations. In addition to Unilever, Coalition members from the business sector include Kimberly Clark, LIXIL, and Firmenich, as well as other funders and NGOs such as Stone Family Foundation, WaterAid, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), and the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme.
The Toilet Board Coalition brings together the technologies, expertise, and resources of its diverse membership to identify, develop, and scale market-based solutions in sanitation.
One pilot business model already supported by the Coalition is the Clean Team project, based in Ghana. The project, which is run by WSUP and uses toilets designed by Unilever, offers fee-based waste removal services that provide households with a cheap and clean alternative to public toilets while supporting the supply-side structure through the employment of sales and maintenance staff.
“Toilet Board Coalition develops initiatives to fight the sanitation crisis.” Unilever Press Release 11/19/2014.
Tim Smedley. “World Toilet Day: business steps in to tackle open defecation with affordable toilets.” Guardian 11/19/2014.