What are the most significant trends in the WASH sector for 2016 – 2025?

What are the most significant trends in the WASH sector for 2016 – 2025?

Authors: Rognerud, I., Fonseca, C., Kerk, A. van der, Moriarty, P. IRC

2016 is a special year for the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and “Big Water” sectors: it marks the start of the 15-year period for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is also an important year for IRC, as it is the final year of our current five-year business plan.

To develop a new strategy for IRC centred on the Sustainable Development Goals, we have analysed global and regional trends for 2016–2025. In this IRC Trends Analysis we seek to anticipate and explain 11 uncertain trends in the WASH sector, the wider development world and specifically, Dutch development assistance policy.

The report is written from the perspective of IRC’s vision of universal access to WASH services and its mission as an international think-and-do tank. It provides background for the development of IRC’s strategy. Although it is primarily an internal document, we are sharing it because many of the trends we identify are relevant to other sector stakeholders.

We have identified 11 uncertain trends that are relevant for IRC’s work:

  • improving human development and economic growth
  • rapid growth in migration and urbanisation
  • worsening water scarcity
  • complex governance trends
  • a changing global aid landscape
  • the rise of domestic resource mobilisation for development
  • expansion of information and communications technology
  • persistent gaps in wash services despite better access overall
  • continued inadequacy and unsustainability of wash finance
  • evolving approaches to wash service provision
  • altered priorities in Dutch development cooperation policy


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