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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.

Two Ghanaian women trained by World Vision and DRI prepare water samples in a field water quality lab in Ghana. Photo Credit: DRI

Two Ghanaian women trained by World Vision and DRI prepare water samples in a field water quality lab in Ghana. Photo Credit: DRI

“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 WaterAidWater 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/

Cor Dietvorst, Programme Officer at IRC

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.

Photo credit: Government of India

Photo credit: Government of India

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

Photo Credit: Swachh Bharat Mission Facebook

Photo Credit: Swachh Bharat Mission Facebook

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

Smile please!

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.

Geo-referenced toilet monitoring data. Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation

Geo-referenced toilet monitoring data. Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation

Photos uploaded with Swachh Bharat app. Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation

Photos uploaded with Swachh Bharat app. Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation

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.

See: It's the toilet police! India to track WC usage with tablets in real time, Russia Today, 31 Dec 2014 and Neff, B. Indian authorities unleash toilet Gestapo. Daily Caller, 02 Jan 2015

Letter to Principal Secretary/Secretaries in charge of Rural Sanitation all States and UTs. Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation, 05 Dec 2014

Unused rural toilets to face public scrutiny, The Hindu, 01 Jan 2015

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

Nationwide monitoring of use of toilets will be launched from January, 2015, PIB, 31 Dec 2014

IRC - Monitoring at scale in BRAC WASH

Baetings, E., 2014. How are you and how is your loo?

Photo Credit: Evidence Action

USAID and the Skoll Foundation have announced a joint investment of $2 million in Evidence Action to scale the Dispensers for Safe Water program in rural Uganda.

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. 

Stella Artois has announced a $1.2 million grant to Water.org in support of an initiative to end daily, time-consuming journeys to collect water by women in the developing world.

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.

Shauna Curry

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.

Graph: Breakdown of sanitation and water aid commitments by purpose type, 2012

(Source: Page 49, GLAAS Report)

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.

Photo of sanitation training materials workshop, Cambodia, May 2014

CAWST launched its new sanitation training materials during a workshop, seen here, in Cambodia in May 2014. Focusing on skills and knowledge is crucial if WASH interventions are to be successful and sustained. Credit: CAWST

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.

Photo of CAWST teaching model

CAWST’s unique approach to building local capacity empowers people to address their own water and sanitation needs, and then CAWST supports them in their actions through ongoing consulting support. Credit: CAWST

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.

Toilet Board Coalition

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.

Global efforts to provide improved water and sanitation for all are gaining momentum, but serious gaps in funding continue to hamper progress, according to a new report from the World Health Organization on behalf of UN-Water.

The UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS 2014), published biannually, presents data from 94 countries and 23 external support agencies. It offers a comprehensive analysis of strengths and challenges in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) provision within and across countries.

“Water and sanitation are essential to human health. Political commitment to ensure universal access to these vital services is at an all-time high,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director of the WHO Department of Public Health and the Environment. “International aid for the sector is on the rise. But we continue to see major financial gaps at the country level, particularly in rural areas.”

Strengthened political commitment

Two thirds of the 94 countries surveyed recognized drinking-water and sanitation as a universal human right in national legislation. More than 80% reported having national policies in place for drinking-water and sanitation, and more than 75% have policies for hygiene.

This strengthened political commitment at national levels is reflected in global discussions around the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Universal and equitable access to water, sanitation and hygiene have been proposed as global targets by the Member State working group tasked with developing the SDGs.

“Now is the time to act,” says Michel Jarraud, Chair of UN-Water and Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization. “We may not know yet what the post-2015 sustainable development agenda will look like. But we do know that water and sanitation must be clear priorities if we are to create a future that allows everyone to live healthy, prosperous and dignified lives.”

Increased aid, better targeting of resources

International aid for water and sanitation is on the rise: According to the report, financial commitments for WASH increased by 30% between 2010 and 2012—from US $8.3 billion to $10.9 billion.

Aid commitments are increasingly targeted to underserved regions, notably sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and South-eastern Asia. GLAAS 2014 also highlights the strengthened targeting of WASH resources for the poor: more than 75% of countries reported having specific measures in their national plans to provide water and sanitation for low-income populations.

“For our partners, especially at country level, GLAAS is key for achieving sound, evidence-based decision-making,” says President John Agyekum Kufuor, Chair of Sanitation and Water for All. “The report guides governments in knowing where progress in WASH is being made and where more resources need to be allocated.”

Still major gaps

Despite these gains, 2.5 billion men, women and children around the world lack access to basic sanitation services. About 1 billion people continue to practice open defecation. An additional 748 million people do not have ready access to an improved source of drinking-water. And hundreds of millions of people live without clean water and soap to wash their hands, facilitating the spread of diarrhoeal disease, the second leading cause of death among children under five.

Many other water-borne diseases, such as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis, are prone to explosive outbreaks. Poor sanitation and hygiene can also lead to debilitating diseases affecting scores of people in the developing world, like intestinal worms, blinding trachoma and schistosomiasis.

The report cites a number of key challenges, including:

  • Insufficient financing: Though international aid for the WASH sector has increased, national funding needs continue to outweigh available resources. Eighty per cent (80%) of countries reported that current levels of financing are insufficient to meet their targets for drinking-water and sanitation.
  • Funding gap in rural areas: While a vast majority of people who lack access to basic sanitation live in rural areas, the bulk of financing continues to benefit urban residents. Expenditures for rural sanitation comprise less than 10% of total WASH financing.
  • Weak national capacity to execute WASH plans: Despite strong political support for universal access to water and sanitation, fewer than one-third of the countries surveyed for this report have national WASH plans that are being fully implemented, funded and regularly reviewed.
  • Critical gaps in monitoring: Reliable data is vital to identify gaps in access to WASH services and inform policy decisions. Though many countries have WASH monitoring frameworks in place, a majority reported inconsistent or fragmented gathering of data and weak capacity for analysis.
  • Neglect for WASH in schools, health facilities: Water and sanitation services in schools can ensure that children, especially girls, stay in school and learn lifelong hygiene habits. In health clinics, WASH services ensure the privacy and safety of patients, particularly expectant mothers during delivery, and are essential to prevent and respond to disease outbreaks. Yet, GLAAS data indicates that less than 30% of surveyed countries have national WASH plans for institutional settings that were being fully implemented, funded and regularly reviewed.

The GLAAS report and related press materials (press release, fact sheet and frequently asked questions) are available online here.

See a related blog post by John Oldfield, CEO of WASH Advocates, here.

UN reveals major gaps in water and sanitation – especially in rural areas.” World Health Organization, UN-Water Press Release 11/19/2014.

We’re pleased to share that a recently released report from New Philanthropy Capital recognized WASHfunders.org as a top innovation in global philanthropy. The report, 10 Innovations in Global Philanthropy, praises the information on funding flows available through WASHfunders’ mapping tool and notes that the site reflects the broader push for open data in the philanthropic sector.

WASHfunders was also selected as the ‘Experts’ Top Pick’ among the innovations featured within the report, with Cath Tillotson of Scorpio Partnership commenting that, “If you define innovation as doing something differently, bigger or better, WASHfunders ticks all the boxes.”

WASHfunders and other innovations featured in the report will be discussed on a webinar to be held Wednesday, November 12th. Registration information and additional details are available here.

NPC’s report has been covered widely in philanthropic circles. Additional coverage includes an interview with WASHfunders’ lead, Seema Shah, on Philanthropy Age, a write up on Pro Bono Australia, and a mention on Health Affairs. In August, our Twitter feed was also cited as a top ten Twitter influencer in water and development by the Guardian.

We’re honored to receive the recognition and understand that the value of WASHfunders ultimately depends on our engagement with -- and usefulness to -- those working in the WASH sector! To contribute case studies, suggest recommended reading for the Knowledge Center, or submit a guest blog, contact us as washfunders@foundationcenter.org

Dr. Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio, Senior Associate Director at Rockefeller Foundation
Dr. Mary Renwick, Director of the Water Innovation Program at Winrock International

Editor’s Note: This guest post was co-authored by Dr. Mary Renwick, Director of the Water Innovation Program at Winrock International, and Dr. Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio, Senior Associate Director at Rockefeller Foundation. In their post, Dr. Renwick and Dr. Rumbaitis del Rio discuss the advantages of Integrated Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS) and describe SolutionMUS, the implementation methodology developed by Winrock International to scale up this integrated approach to water service provision. On November 13, they’ll be presenting a funder webinar on ways to sustainably improve people’s health and livelihoods through investments in integrated water services. For more information and to RSVP for the event, contact Ryan Leeds at RLeeds@rockfound.org.

For over two billion people living in absolute poverty, water is everything. Access to safe and sustainable water increases peoples’ resilience and improves their health and livelihoods by supporting their basic needs -- from drinking, hygiene, and sanitation to food production and income generation. Unfortunately, the way in which policymakers and water sector architects design and deliver water services to poor communities is often disconnected from the way these communities actually use water. 

A woman displays her local beer brewing process in rural Burkina Faso. Increased access to water means that women are able to expand their income generating activities. Credit: Winrock International

A woman displays her local beer brewing process in rural Burkina Faso. Increased access to water means that women are able to expand their income generating activities. Credit: Winrock International

The current approach to water service delivery usually focuses on providing water for a single use -- typically drinking or irrigation. Not surprisingly, once the water is available people begin using it for all their needs. This means that drinking water systems are used for watering livestock, producing food and supporting small water-dependent enterprises such as brickmaking or beer brewing. Likewise, irrigation water is used for drinking, bathing and other unplanned uses such as watering livestock and home gardens. The use of single-use systems for unintended purposes is a widespread phenomenon that often leads to inadvertent yet serious consequences including the spread of disease, overuse of resources, user conflict, and system breakdown. Ultimately, this gap between planned services and actual needs undermines the intended goal of water service provision -- improved health and livelihoods -- and leads to sustainability problems for water services and resources. 

SolutionMUS

SolutionMUS is a tested methodology for putting MUS into action. Water--Integrated water services provide water for drinking, other domestic needs, and livelihoods. Health--Hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition programs deepen health benefits. Livelihoods--Crop, livestock, and enterprise programs increase income, food security, and resilience. Environment--Source protection, ecosystem, and waste management programs boost environmental sustainability.

Integrated Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS) support transformative change by providing water services that meet peoples’ multiple domestic and productive water needs. MUS use communities’ self-identified needs as a starting point to plan, finance, and manage integrated water services. In addition, MUS take into account all potential water sources (rain, ground and surface water) to design financially and environmentally sustainable water services that meet actual consumer needs and preferences.

In the past 15 years, a growing body of evidence indicates that planning and managing water services for multiple uses can enhance health, improve food security, increase incomes, and reduce workloads for women and children (Loevinsohn et. al., 2014; Evans, et. al., 2013; Hall, et. al 2012; Renwick, et al., 2007; van Hoeve and van Koppen, 2005;  van Hoeve, 2004; Waughray, Lovell, and Mazhangara,1998; VanDer Hoek, Feenstra, and Konradsen, 2002;  Molle and Renwick, 2004). Results from on-the-ground programs in Burkina Faso, Nepal, Niger, Tanzania and other locations suggests that MUS provide the following significant advantages over single-use services:

  • More income and benefits (improved health, nutrition, time savings, food security and social empowerment) for a wider range of people;
  • Decreased vulnerability and increased resiliency for households through diversified livelihood strategies and increased food security;
  • Enhanced reduction of poverty using methods that address the multiple dimensions of poverty simultaneously such as poor health, inadequate resources and lack of skills; and
  • Increased sustainability of water services through productive water use that generates enough income to cover on-going operation, maintenance and replacement costs.
A woman uses a treadle pump at a collective garden for women in Niger. Credit: Winrock International

A woman uses a treadle pump at a collective garden for women in Niger. Credit: Winrock International

Interest in MUS has accelerated as more implementers, governments, and donors design, invest in, and implement integrated development programs. Correspondingly, the demand for a well-defined, evidence-based implementation methodology has grown. Winrock International has addressed this methodological gap by developing SolutionMUS, an open initiative to scale-up multiple-use water services (MUS). SolutionMUS provides a clear conceptual framework, step-by-step implementation guidance and a range of illustrative examples from different contexts. SolutionMUS draws on internationally recognized best practices and builds on and complements the efforts of other early MUS innovators. The approach extends beyond integrated water services by using targeted, cost-effective programs to amplify benefits in health, nutrition, food security, income generation, livelihoods diversification, and environmental sustainability. Since 2005, Winrock has worked with local and international organizations to develop, test and refine the SolutionMUS approach in partnership with local governments, local and international non-governmental organizations, and the local private sector. Our efforts in seven countries have improved the health and livelihoods of 500,000 people.

SolutionMUS is flexible. It does not need to be a stand-alone approach, but can add value to ongoing efforts to provide water services to people living in poverty. Major features of the approach include:

  • A clear, consistent conceptual framework, technical standards, and step-by-step process;
  • Impact-boosting programs that enhance people’s health and livelihoods, and contribute to environmental sustainability;
  • Rigorous field testing and evaluation;
  • An active learning and sharing platform to encourage continuous improvement; and
  • A growing package of technical support and training products for implementers, funders, policymakers, and researchers.

Want to learn more?

Join us on Thursday, November 13 at 11:30 ET when Rockefeller Foundation, along with Winrock International, will host a funder webinar on integrated water services. The webinar will explain how you can:

  • Achieve a higher return on every dollar spent on water services;
  • Ensure the sustainability of your investments; and
  • Tackle the multi-dimensional aspects of poverty, improve health and nutrition, increase food security, diversify livelihoods, and protect the environment.

Please RSVP here to participate in the webinar or contact Ryan Leeds (RLeeds@rockfound.org) for additional information. 

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