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7 ideas on how knowledge can help us achieve universal access to safely-managed drinking water and sanitation

Guy Hutton's picture
It is vital that we better manage our knowledge, to make better use of it for delivering universal access to water and sanitation. This requires new ways of capturing, sorting, weighing, curating, and translating knowledge into practical, bite-sized chunks. The Disease Control Priorities project, now in its third edition (www.dcp-3.org), is an excellent example of what this looks like in practice. It aims to compile the best available evidence across multiple areas of health to provide a snapshot of the coverage of services, the problems resulting from lack of services, the effectiveness of interventions, and the cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit of those options.
 
Disease Control Priorities Network (DCPN), funded in 2010 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a multi-year project managed by
University of Washington’s Department of Global Health (UW-DGH) and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). 


As authors of the WASH chapter of DCP-3, we wanted to share some of our key takeaways below:

Enhance transboundary basin management: Here are some useful tools

Taylor W. Henshaw's picture
More than 10,000 water professionals from 160 countries gathered in Brasilia two weeks ago at the 8th World Water Forum to discuss current and future water challenges. The Forum’s Declaration, “An Urgent Call for Decisive Action on Water”, issued by Ministers and Heads of Delegations, encourages transboundary cooperation based on win-win solutions in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6. (SDG 6 Target 5  calls on the world community to implement integrated water resources management at all levels, ‘including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate’.)

Transboundary waters—which support the socioeconomic wellbeing of more than 40 percent of the global population, as well as the ecosystems on which they depend—were a regular discussion topic in special sessions and high-level panel events at the Forum. This is not surprising given the complex blend of human, environmental and agricultural water stresses that is putting a number of the world’s 286 transboundary river basins on a trajectory toward high risk of water scarcity, and several toward closure—where water demand exceeds supply seasonally or throughout the year—by 2030. The below map, depicting the relative risk of environmental water stress projected for 2030, illustrates the potentially dire future of the world’s transboundary freshwater basins.
 
Source: Global Environment Facility Transboundary Waters Assessment Program 2015. http://twap-rivers.org/

Women and jobs in water

Gaia Hatzfeldt's picture

On a busy street corner in Nairobi, Kenya, Abuya uses water to prepare and cook the food she sells to passersby. At the market in Hyderabad, India, Dimah splashes water on her fruit and vegetables to keep them fresh. In the make-shift hair-cutting salon in her basement in Medellin, Colombia, Isabela uses water to wash her customer’s hair.

Reaching for the SDGs: the untapped potential of Tanzania’s water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector

George Joseph's picture


When it comes to economic success, Tanzania offers a model for the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth has averaged 6.5 percent per year over the past decade, and between 2007 and 2012 nearly a third of the poorest 40% of the population rose out of poverty. However, the progress towards improving water and sanitation access for all has not kept a similar pace.
 
A new report by the World Bank, ‘Reaching For The SDGs’ was launched by the Honorable Eng. Isack Kamwelwe, Minister of Water and Irrigation on March 20 in Dar es Salaam. In her welcome address, Ms. Bella Bird, Country Director for Tanzania, Malawi, and Burundi said, “adequate WASH is a crucial component of basic human necessities that allow a person to thrive in life”.  The report shows how water and sanitation services need to advance substantially in order to achieve much needed improvements in health and wellbeing that will help the country fulfill its true potential.  Progress in this area still has a long way to go.  

Solar Pumping 101: the what, why, and the how

Kristoffer Welsien's picture

Interested in learning about Solar Pumping in French? Let us know in the comments if you'd like to see the toolkit translated!

Solar water pumping system.
Image credit: Energy & Development Group.

Access to a safe, sustainable water supply is a growing concern in every region of the world. In many communities, groundwater is being pumped by diesel fueled systems, which are both expensive and can be difficult to maintain. In communities where electricity is scarce, solar can be a part of the solution.
 
The highest demand for solar pumps is among rural off-grid areas, currently underserved, or served by costly fuel-driven pumps. Solar pumping is most competitive in regions with high solar insolation, which include most of Africa, South America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia; but the technology can operate successfully in almost any region of the world.

A water and sanitation success story in Uganda — but the question is how to sustain it

Fadeke Ayoola's picture

Last year, I attended the African Great Lakes Conference in Entebbe, Uganda, joining over 300 specialists who presented on a wide range of water issues. The highlight of the conference, for me, was visiting the Integrated Community Environmental Conservation project in Arul village, Kigungu, in Entebbe.
 
The project aims to reduce bio-diversity loss, pollution of international waters of Lake Victoria, land degradation, and address some effects of climate change. The fact that the project was managed by a women’s empowerment network made the prospects of the visit more interesting. Mainstreaming gender in environmental and conservation work is an issue that needs to be addressed.
 

The community fish pond in Kigungu, Entebbe, created to promote sustainable practices, self-sufficiency and to reduce over fishing in Lake Victoria.

Ensuring a water and food secure future through farmer-led irrigation

Steven Schonberger's picture

How can we think in new ways about expanding farmer-led irrigation in support of global food security and poverty reduction? This was the question at the heart of the 2017 Water for Food International Forum. The theme, “Water for Food Security: From Local Lessons to Global Impacts,” was based on the premise that global breakthroughs are so often driven by local action.
 
Organized by the World Bank and the Daugherty Water for Food Institute (DWFI) at the University of Nebraska, and supported by several partners, the event showcased voices from farmer representatives, the private sector, national and regional policymakers, and major international financing institutions – galvanizing a coalition of support to legitimize farmer-led irrigation as a major development agenda, particularly for Africa.
 

Cucumbers growing in a greenhouse for hydroponics.
Photo: Sashko via ShutterStock

Strong thirsts in fragile countries: walking the water scarce path of refugees

Amal Talbi's picture
A Syrian child in Zaatari Camp uses a water kiosk designed for hand washing and water collection. 
Photo: Oxfam International

Imagine that you must flee home at once. You may be fleeing violence, social tensions, poor environmental conditions, or even persecution. You and your loved ones may walk for several days to find safety, and may even go for periods without food.
 
What would you need to survive?
 
The answer is clean water. Finding drinkable water is one of the first steps in your journey to a new home. If you instead consume contaminated water, you risk exposure to several diseases. Drinking water unfit for consumption may not only harm your health in the short run -- drinking unclean water may cause life-long health problems. And of course, these problems multiply if entire communities, or even cities, face these health problems.
 
At the end of this leg of the journey, you may end up in a densely populated refugee camp. Many refugee camps quickly become quasi cities that suffer from poor planning, poor water supplies, and poor sanitation. Keeping these makeshift cities clean and safe is a herculean task. For many refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in these water scarce cities, it is difficult to access water supply and sanitation facilities.
 
The situation is even more dire for refugees or IDPs in the water-scarce Mashreq subregion*. The demographic shock of mass migration compounds already complex challenges in the region -- from climate shocks to crumbling infrastructure. According to the World Bank report Turbulent Waters: Pursuing Water Security in Fragile Contexts, water security is more difficult to achieve in fragile contexts because of a range of factors, including weak institutions and information systems, strained human and financial resources, and degraded infrastructure.

Innovate to irrigate: 19 innovations to increase food production without draining the earth

Brittany Scalise's picture
Also available in: Arabic, Chinese, French
Whenever you bite into a piece of food, do you think about where it comes from? How did it get from the ground to your table? Who are the farmers and entrepreneurs who cultivated and sourced it? It’s strange to think that this doesn’t cross our minds more often.
 
This issue is one we should be thinking about more and more often. As populations continue to grow, there needs to be new innovations to increase sustainable food production, without draining the earth. With factors such as climate change impacting water supplies and security, business-as-usual just won’t cut it.
 
For this reason, on January 29th, 2018, the
Water for Food International Forum Innovation Fair: Innovate to Irrigate, gathered together 19 organizations who are leading the way in this challenge, through creative technologies that support farmer-led irrigation practices.

Igniting action for farmer-led irrigation at Water for Food International Forum

Lauren Nicole Core's picture
Water scarcity, lack of access and rights to water for irrigation, and climate shocks are just a few of the challenges that global farmers face. These issues emerged as major themes during the Water for Food International Forum taking place today and tomorrow (January 29-30, 2018) at the World Bank, which brought together farmers, governments, private food and technology companies, financial institutions, and researchers and practitioners from around the world. 

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