Author Archives: WSUP

Getting communities engaged in water and sanitation projects: participatory design and consumer feedback

Community engagement in water and sanitation service delivery is key for ensuring project sustainability and accountability.

This Topic Brief looks at community engagement approaches used by WSUP in three cities within the African Cities for the Future (ACF) programme: Antananarivo (Madagascar), Kumasi (Ghana) and Maputo (Mozambique).

Community EngagementClick on the image above to download the Topic Brief

The specific focus is on ways to encourage community involvement in the design of water supply and sanitation projects, and ways in which service providers can elicit input and feedback from people living in low-income communities.

The Topic Brief discusses several cases in which community engagement has positively contributed to the development of WASH services. It highlights some of the key challenges currently faced by WSUP and other sector organisations, and ends with practical recommendations for programme managers about how to engage low-income communities.

Dealing with land tenure and tenancy challenges in water and sanitation services delivery

Providing water and sanitation services to the urban poor often takes place in contexts with complex formal and informal land ownership arrangements. Firstly, the people in most need of improved water and sanitation are often tenants, and this raises diverse challenges: for example, landlords may be unwilling to invest in better toilets. Secondly, improving water and sanitation services often requires land for construction of communal or public facilities, and land tenure again raises diverse problems here.

How can these challenges be overcome? Drawing on WSUP’s experience in the African Cities for the Future (ACF) programme, this Topic Brief gives an overview of this area, and discusses possible solutions. The Topic Brief also offers practical guidance for programme managers.

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This Topic Brief is the first in a series of four, documenting learning from the ACF programme. Watch out for the following titles, which will be released over the coming weeks:

  • Getting communities engaged in water and sanitation projects:
    participatory design and consumer feedback
  • Designing effective contracts for small-scale service providers in urban water and sanitation
  • Hybrid management models: blending community and private management

To view all WSUP’s publications, visit

Sanitation surcharges collected through water bills: a way forward for financing pro-poor sanitation?

Market-driven models for sanitation in low-income areas are of unquestionable importance, but there is broad consensus that the market needs to be supported by some sort of public revenue stream. One approach to revenue generation is to include a sanitation surcharge within water bills.

This Discussion Paper is a situation review of sanitation surcharge systems in African cities, focusing on systems designed to raise revenues for improving sanitation in low-income districts. The review considers existing pro-poor surcharge systems in Lusaka and Ouagadougou; systems that cannot currently be considered pro-poor, in Dakar, Beira and Antananarivo; and the special case of Maputo, where there is ongoing debate about how a surcharge might be introduced. Lusaka’s model is of particular interest: could it be applied more widely to raise finance for pro-poor sanitation?

For more publications in this series, visit

Recognising and dealing with informal influences in water and sanitation services delivery

Donor-funded water and sanitation improvement programmes tend to focus on and operate within the formal frameworks put in place by municipal or national governments. These frameworks broadly comprise the rules, laws and official policies that govern water and sanitation services delivery. However, in order to plan and implement programmes effectively, it is essential that implementers also recognise and take into account the influence of more subtle informal factors, such as conventions, norms of behaviour, and unwritten cultural codes of conduct.

This Topic Brief draws on WSUP’s experience in the 6-city African Cities for the Future (ACF) programme, to illustrate how both formal and informal factors can influence local service provider and low-income consumer behaviours. The Topic Brief also provides practical guidance aimed at sector programme managers to help explore and respond to some of the issues raised here, with a view to achieving greater project sustainability.

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Delegated management of water and sanitation services in urban areas: experiences from Kumasi, Ghana

Historically, water and sanitation service providers in low-income countries have struggled to accommodate rapid urban expansion, and particularly to serve the poor in peri-urban areas. One way to approach these challenges is to develop alternative approaches to service delivery, incorporating innovative institutional and contractual arrangements, and involving partnerships between communities, utilities, the private sector and regulators.

This Topic Brief focuses on a delegated management model developed in Kumasi (Ghana), where a WSUP-facilitated partnership between the water utility, the Metropolitan Assembly and a community management committee is starting to play a key role in expanding the provision of clean, affordable water and improved public toilet facilities in the low-income district of Kotei. The Brief explores the nature of the model, the contractual arrangements, and the central role of the community management committee. It also examines the potential for scale-up and replication.

For more resources like this, visit

Video Resource: What’s working in urban water and sanitation?

Water and sanitation services, as we all know, remain grossly deficient in slum districts of cities throughout the less-developed world.

Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) has produced a series of short videos relevant for everybody working to improve water and sanitation services for low-income urban consumers, highlighting ways in which African water utilities and other key actors are achieving real progress in this area.

The first four videos in the series are now available to watch on our YouTube channel and cover the following topics:

Emptying pits: a serious business
Paulinho, a small entrepreneur in Maputo, Mozambique, is moving into the pit emptying business. This video shows him at work.

Fix the leaks, serve the poor
How reducing non-revenue water (NRW) can free up water for low-income communities: experience from Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Surcharging for sanitation
Charging for sanitation through water bills. This video explores Lusaka’s sanitation levy system.

Connecting people
Tariff reform and social marketing as strategies for increasing household connections to the water network: experience from Maputo, Mozambique.

*The next set of videos in this series will follow shortly. Watch this space!

Six key solutions for pro-poor WASH financing

Financing water and sanitation improvements for the very poor remains a major challenge over large areas of the globe.

In the lead-up to World Water Forum 2012, sector specialists throughout the world have been asked to report specific solutions for addressing this challenge. Based on these concrete examples, IRC and WSUP today propose six key solutions for pro-poor WASH finance.

We urge financing institutions, governments and service providers worldwide to put these key solutions into practice:

1) Use life-cycle costing approaches to ensure that all life-cycle costs of infrastructure and services are fully taken into account, and that maintenance is financed.

2) Maximise local small-scale private-sector involvement in water and sanitation service provision for the poorest.

3) Introduce innovative water tariff systems that ensure financial sustainability and affordability for the poorest.

4) Use water revenues to cross-subsidise sanitation: incorporating sanitation charges into water bills is a key approach for financing sanitation services (including for people who could not otherwise afford them).

5) Use output-based financing approaches: by making disbursements dependent on demonstrated delivery of services to the poorest, there is an incentive for funds to be spent more efficiently.

6) Use progress-linked finance (PLF) approaches: the funder commits to provide concessional finance at a specified time in the future, on condition that the service provider has by that time demonstrated capacity for commercially viable service delivery to low-income areas.

For more details and specific case studies, see the Discussion Paper “Financing water and sanitation for the poor: six key solutions“, available from the WSUP website and the IRC website, or just click on the image below.

This Discussion Paper is co-published by IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), as a background document for World Water Forum 6 (WWF6, Marseille, France,  12—17 March 2012).

Within the WWF6 area CS2 (Financing Water for All), IRC and WSUP are leading and coordinating Target Group CS2.7 “Pro-poor finance solutions for water and sanitation”.

Session date: Tuesday 13th March, 14:30—16:30.

It’s going to be an interesting and stimulating session: we hope to see you there!

Progress-Linked Finance: a study of the feasibility and practicality of a proposed WASH financing approach

Finding appropriate ways of financing sanitation for urban poor communities remains a key challenge. Approaches like output-based aid (OBA) are attracting enormous interest, and rightly so. However, OBA models aren’t appropriate for all contexts, and other approaches also need to be explored.

This report assesses the feasibility of a financing model, Progress-Linked Finance (PLF), designed to incentivise and support water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) service providers to meet the needs of poor urban residents in a financially sustainable manner. Under the PLF model, international financing institutions (potentially including multilaterals, bilaterals, and foundations) would enter into commitment agreements with urban WASH service providers, notably utilities and municipalities.

In very simple terms, PLF can be summarised as an agreement of the following type: “If the service provider can demonstrate 3 years from now that they have met conditions A, B and C in relation to financial viability and pro-poor commitment and capacity, the financing institution will provide a grant or loan of amount X for WASH scale-up”. In reality, agreements would likely be more complex, for example entailing a series of agreements involving a number of financing institutions. Central to the model is positive incentivisation coupled with rigorous verification that conditions have been met.

On the basis of desk analysis and wide-ranging interviews with urban WASH financing experts, this initial assessment finds that the PLF concept is broadly feasible. This report explores different variants of PLF, and suggests various ways in which the concept might be put into practice.

This Discussion Paper is co-published by Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). This paper is presented at this stage as a basis for sector debate, and should not be considered a definitive statement of the views of either WSUP or ODI.

Evaluating the health impact of urban WASH programmes

Improving health is a key justification for WASH interventions…but evaluating health impacts is often viewed as too complex and costly.

This Discussion Paper, a WSUP/SHARE collaboration, argues for more widespread evaluation of the health impacts of WASH interventions: not with the aim of demonstrating that WASH can improve health (we know it can), but rather with the aim of assessing the impact of particular interventions.

We suggest that more frequent evaluation could contribute to improved effectiveness, by encouraging investors and implementers to focus on impacts rather than outputs (such as number of toilets constructed). More widespread health impact evaluation would also enable more objective comparative assessment of the value-for-money of different types of urban WASH intervention. Further, we argue that health impact evaluation need not be as costly as is widely thought. We discuss available methods, and suggest that the most appropriate approach in urban WASH evaluation contexts will often be the before-after concurrent control (BAC) design.

This Discussion Paper is co-published by Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) and the Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity (SHARE) Research Consortium. It is presented at this stage as a basis for sector debate, and should not be considered a definitive statement of the views of these organisations.

Loowatt – the waterless toilet system

The Loowatt system creates a low-cost and simple solution for waterless sanitation that converts human waste into biogas. We have built and tested a working system in London and see great potential for our toilets to make a difference in the developing world. The key benefits of Loowatt are that it’s easy to use, low-cost, clean and not at all smelly. Along with this, it creates a local supply of biogas.

In July 2011, the Loowatt team spent two weeks in on an intensive study in and around Madagascar’s capital city, Antananarivo, also known as Tana. We’ve outlined some of our observations in a series of photos.

Our objective in Tana was to gather information and explore ways to implement Loowatt systems. We collaborated with Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), a partnership between NGOs, the private sector, and academia, which engages with local governments and has been working in Tana for several years.  They take a systems-based, market-driven approach to implementing sanitation solutions which was critical in exploring our key topics, including, household costs related to sanitation, energy use, and consumer aspirations. While much of this information is available in existing studies from WSUP, much is new, and all is understood more deeply through first hand investigation and discussions.

We conducted research in the urban center (a.k.a. CUA), the peri-urban area (a.k.a. FIFTAMA), and Ikibo, a rural village 25 miles from the city. In Ikibo, we were hosted by the Madagascar Development Fund, which has transformed the village by providing safe drinking water and creating local enterprise. Everywhere we went, we met with stakeholders in government, NGOs, commercial entities, local academics, enterprises, manufacturers, households, and more.

In Tana there is an urgent need for better sanitation. 75% of city center residents, and 95% of the peri-urban ones rely on dry pit latrines. The entire urban area is without any formal disposal system for fecal sludge. 98% of latrines are emptied by informal service providers or private companies, with no regulation on where fecal sludge is discarded.  We witnessed first hand the dumping of untreated human waste into local watercourses. The city’s current sanitation system remains decentralized.

The Loowatt System fits this situation perfectly, as it provides safe sanitation without the need for central infrastructure, and at the same time delivers valuable biogas and fertilizer. A key task for Loowatt is to understand how value is generated by our system, also taking into account any negative impacts. This will help us to build robust scenarios for the system, which are economically self-sustaining and offer real incentives for adoption.