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Technological innovations are on exponential curves; but are water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) measurement methods stuck in time?

Luis Andres's picture

Co-authors: Evan Thomas and German Sturzenegger

Technological innovations have the potential to revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development—if we rise responsibly to the challenge of measuring their impact.

Fifteen years is a long time for technology. In 2003 the “World Wide Web” was pervasive by 1986 standards. Yet today, the web of 2003 may very well have been spun by a single spider.

It’s been over two years since the United Nations introduced the Sustainable Development Goals. How can we better monitor progress toward them? This month, the World Bank Group and the InterAmerican Development Bank, along with collaborators from partnering institutions, published an overview of innovations in the monitoring of water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) impact measures, directly tied to SDG #6: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” The authors explore the potential of new measurement technologies to “revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development in the sector,” one of the hopes pinned to the SDG framework.

Fostering a spirit of cooperation among the Brahmaputra Basin riparians

Taylor W. Henshaw's picture
The Brahmaputra River Basin in South Asia

The Brahmaputra River Basin originates in the Himalayas of China and flows through India and Bangladesh, with flow contribution from Bhutan. The basin is one of the largest and most complex in the world for a variety of reasons, including its challenging topography and hydrological environment.  

Development in the basin has historically been piecemeal, undertaken on a project-by-project basis at the country level. Complex geopolitics between downstream and upstream countries has been amplified by an incomplete basin knowledge base, the varying professional water resources management and technical capacities of the basin riparians, and power asymmetry among those countries. The absence of a basin-wide cooperative framework has translated into missed opportunities for regional economic growth, especially in agriculture and hydropower and through disaster risk reduction.

How will Argentina achieve universal access to water and sanitation? Takeaways from International Water Association Conference in Buenos Aires

Gustavo Saltiel's picture
Palermo Water Treatment Plan, Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos, AySA, Buenos Aires

Argentina set ambitious targets of providing universal access to water and 75 percent access to sewerage services for its citizens. How can the country move toward this goal? 
 
That was the theme of the discussion on “Argentina Day” at the recent International Water Association (IWA) Water and Development Congress and Exhibition held in Buenos Aires, where water professionals from around the world and Argentinian officials met to exchange knowledge, experiences, and strategies.

Leaving no one behind: the pioneering work on disability inclusion in Indonesia’s rural water sector

George Soraya's picture
Dwifina Sandra, Class 9, SLB Bhakti Pertiwi School, Yogyakarta

Also co-authored with Dea Widyastuty, Operations Analyst, the World Bank Water Global Practice; Trimo Pamudji Al Djono, Consultant, the World bank Water Global Practice 

Dwifina loves art. Every day she looks forward to making her thread canvasses. Her only wish is that she had more time to spend on them. Being paralyzed, she spends a significant amount of time on mundane activities like getting ready for school and sorting out school supplies and books. She needs to ask friends to assist her in using the bathroom in school, as it lacks the design features for her to use it independently. Between homework and these extended activities of daily living, Dwifina finds little time for her true passion.

There are about a billion people with physical, cognitive, or psychological disabilities in the world, who struggle to access basic services required to perform daily functions. Unfortunately, most of these barriers to access are socially constructed.

Stronger together? Reflections on an 11-year journey through water reform

David Michaud's picture
The year is 2006, the scene is Honduras. As an enthusiastic new team member of a World Bank water sector reform project, I am trying to participate in the high-level discussions around decentralization and local government empowerment in the provision of water and sanitation services in my (then) broken Spanish. Coming from Switzerland, a small country with thousands of local service providers, I am convinced a bottom-up approach to service delivery is THE solution. Hasn’t the hugely influential 2004 World Development Report argued for exactly that – shortening the accountability route between customers and service providers? We are the champions of local, elected mayors, who want nothing more than to prove they could deliver better than the central government’s utility.

It’s now 2010 and I’m still in Honduras, now amid the reform implementation when reality kicks in. Three new municipal utilities have been established, with catchy logos and new staff and management. Operating costs, salaries in particular, have been slashed, and there’s a sense of opportunity – but also challenges. Those elected mayors are thinking about the next election and not very keen on adjusting tariffs to where they need to be. Installing water meters, a cornerstone of the modernization strategy, is facing a huge backlash from those very customers who are making direct use of the shorter accountability route to make their concerns heard. And services aren’t really getting better as fast as we would want…

Forward to 2014 – I’m now in Croatia. I’m sitting in a non-descript conference hall in Zagreb, Croatia, trying to inform a diverse set of local and central government stakeholders about the pros and cons of merging municipal water utilities into regional operators, as everyone else seems to be doing in the region. In fact, since my transition to Europe & Central Asia the year before, I observe what appears to be a serious case of reformitis: consultants and policy advisors are dutifully preaching the regionalization of just recently decentralized service providers to help implement the European Union’s stringent and costly environmental regulations.

Game-changing water solutions for the Middle East and North Africa

Claudia W. Sadoff's picture
Women collecting water in  Al-Minsalah district, Haddjah province, Yemen. Photo: ECHO/T. Deherman
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has become a hotspot of unsustainable water use, with more than half of current water withdrawals in some countries exceeding the amount naturally available. This could have serious long-term consequences for the region’s growth and stability. Solutions for narrowing the gap between the supply of and demand for water are an urgent priority.
 
As the Fourth Arab Water Forum gets underway next week in Cairo, Egypt, much is at stake in the region’s water management. Armed conflict and massive numbers of refugees have put tremendous additional stress on land and water resources in MENA as well as on infrastructure in communities receiving the refugees. In Jordan alone, according to the country’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation, climate change and the refugee crisis have reduced water availability per person to 140 cubic meters, far below the globally recognized threshold of 500 cubic meters for severe water scarcity.
 
These recent developments compound the impact of decades of rapid population growth, urbanization and agricultural intensification. A recent World Bank report notes that more than 60% of the region’s population is concentrated in places affected by high or very high surface water stress, compared to a global average of about 35%. The report further warns that climate-related water scarcity is expected to cause economic losses estimated at 6-14% of GDP by 2050 – the highest in the world.
 
As governments search for solutions, two trends in particular could present game-changing opportunities to bolster water security. As captured in two recent reports by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the viability of these solutions will depend on how governments and societies respond to them.

The tyranny of toilets

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture
Students heads to a female only toilets in Maskoke Primely and Secondly School
in Gode Town in Ethiopia. Credit: UNICEF Ethiopia

In the lead-in to World Toilet Day, we hear a great deal about the role of toilets in sanitation and in better health and human development outcomes.  Toilets are good development. Period.
 
We hear less about the fact that toilets are often sites and instruments of social exclusion.
 
Let me explain.
 
Segregated toilets for males and females were intended to give women privacy and to respect the “intrinsic” physical differences between the sexes.  In fact, in most developing countries, segregated toilets are a sine qua non for female participation in public spaces, in education and in employment. 
 
But the story is more complex.

Planning for disaster: forecasting the impact of floods in South Asia's river basins

Satya Priya's picture
Co-authors:
William Young, Lead Water Resources Management Specialist, the World Bank  
Thomas Hopson
Ankit Avasthi

 
Download the Report in the World Bank's
Open Knowledge Repository

The Ganges Basin in South Asia is home to some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities. Annual floods during monsoon season cause widespread human suffering and economic losses. This year, torrential rains and catastrophic floods affected more than 45 million people, including 16 million children. By 2030, with ongoing climate change and socioeconomic development, floods may cost the region as much as $215 billion annually.

A new report, Flood Risk Assessment and Forecasting for the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna River Basins, summarizes two recent initiatives aiming to reduce these flood losses: a flood risk assessment for the Ganges Basin and an improved flood forecasting system for the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basins.

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