Frequently asked questions

If you have any questions about WaterAid and our work, this page can help you! Simply select one of the following categories and click on a question to view the answer.

Can’t people just dig their own wells? Or dig a hole for a toilet?

Many people already do. Hand dug wells, for instance, are the most common way people in developing countries access water. Going to the toilet in the open is also extremely common. But both of these practices are unsafe, directly leading to the spread of deadly diseases.

WaterAid’s partners work with communities to build simple, long-term solutions, like safely lined and capped wells and ventilated pit latrines. These are far safer and help protect people’s health, allowing people to break out of the cycle of poverty. Click here to read more about our technologies.

Why don’t they move nearer the water source?

Natural sources of water are rarely safe. When open to nature they can be contaminated with household and industrial waste, animal faeces, parasites and waterborne diseases like cholera.

They are also unreliable, drying up or running out. This means finding a new source that could be many miles away. A community cannot move every time this happens.

It is therefore much better and safer to create a water facility that is local, and uses water that needs only minimal filtering, like groundwater, rainwater, or similar. Click here to find out more.

Why don’t they boil the water?

There are some significant problems with this as a long-term solution. For instance, sourcing a constant supply of fuel to boil water can be very difficult or expensive. Also, this extra need to constantly burn fossil fuels often leads to higher rates of respiratory conditions.

Boiling the water also does nothing to stop millions of women and children having to walk miles for their water every day, leaving no time for other work, education or play.

Nobody should be forced to live this way. As a long term solution, it is therefore fairer and cheaper in every way to create a water supply that is close by and safe at its source.

Water is heavy – why do your photos show people carrying it on their heads? Surely that’s dangerous?

WaterAid’s partners can often provide a waterpoint within a community, but sometimes it can be up to a few hundred metres away for some households.

In some places where WaterAid works, balancing heavy loads on the head is a cultural tradition practised for generations. However, the need to do this is greatly reduced by bringing a reliable source of safe water as close to a community as possible.

I’ve seen a good clean water invention – are you sending them to your projects?

When working with people in poor and often very remote communities, introducing any new technology has to be done with care and an awareness of potential problems. These include issues of maintenance training, operational costs, future repairs and replacement of parts.

WaterAid therefore prefers to source solutions locally. We work with a community to help them develop simple, reliable and affordable technologies from local markets that they can reach. Through assistance and training, this helps people to become as self-sufficient as possible, and ensures resources and local knowledge are always nearby when needed.

To find out more about the kinds of technologies we use in our work, please click here.

How are you going to achieve your 2030 target?

Getting safe water, sanitation and hygiene to everyone, everywhere by 2030 is as much a political challenge as a technical or financial one. Governments have to build strong systems so that all the agencies involved – from ministries down to local government – are working together to ensure people have services that are appropriate, accessible and sustainable.

Our approach is to combine practical work with policy work to make lasting change happen. In our projects, communities are involved from day one, working with our local partners to design and build the most suitable water, sanitation and hygiene facilities for them. We then work with governments to roll out successful approaches and keep facilities going through strong systems.

WaterAid is uniquely placed to bring about global and national level change because we work in 26 developing countries and have over 30 years’ experience of the technical challenges in reaching excluded and marginalised people.

You can read more about our post-2015 plans at

Why is there still a need after all these years of aid?

Aid has helped a huge number of people receive water to date, but we are dealing with a truly vast crisis, with 844 million people still lacking access to clean water and a staggering 2.3 billion are without a decent toilet.

It is therefore vital that aid continues to be invested in water and sanitation, and in the most efficient, sustainable ways possible.

For instance, one reason there is still a need is because water and sanitation provision is often underfunded in developing countries. WaterAid therefore campaigns around the world to ensure governments are fulfilling their responsibilities, investing in water and sanitation systems that can be sustained after aid stops.

If a collective effort is made, we believe everyone, everywhere can have access to clean water and a toilet by 2030. As well as being human rights, water and toilets also bring positive effects to all other areas of development too – people’s health, education and livelihoods, gender equality and social inclusion

In democratic countries, why don't people demand better services from their government?

Often, poor communities are marginalised and not aware of their entitlements to basic services. We work with communities to increase their awareness of rights and facilitate dialogue with the government agencies responsible for delivering it.

Do you fund governments?

No. However, we do work with governments to change policy and practice to improve poor people’s access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. We do this through policy advocacy, campaigning and dialogue with key decision makers. We want to see all governments build strong water and sanitation sectors with robust systems that deliver services and keep them running. We want to see increased funding for water and sanitation and for governments to direct it at people who need it most.

Isn’t all the aid being lost to corruption? How can I be sure my donation is going to the right place?

WaterAid is of course aware of the potential for aid money to be lost to fraud and corruption, and for this reason has a rigorous financial system in place to protect ourselves from this.

WaterAid’s internal audit team track all of our expenditure, and that of the partners who help us implement our work. We are also independently audited each year.

Why do you work in India?

With a population of more than 1.2 billion people spread across 1.3 million square miles, India is a vast country with many unique challenges to development. Around 90 million people have no access to safe water, and over 790 million have nowhere to go to the toilet.

We work with the Indian Government at national, state and local levels, towards our aim of reaching everyone, everywhere with safe water, sanitation and hygiene. Over the last 20 years, the Indian government has proven its commitment to water and sanitation, reaching 500 million people with safe water and pledging to ensure that everyone has basic sanitation by 2023.

India occasionally comes under criticism for its space programme, which was founded in 1969. The India Government invests just 0.08% of its GDP on the programme – less than one tenth of one percent.

We estimate that in 2015, our WaterAid India country programme will have completed the necessary legal procedures to be able to raise funds from the Indian public. This will be a unique arrangement among WaterAid's country programmes, and reflects the opportunities that exist in India.

Why did you stop working in Angola?

WaterAid is committed to creating solutions that are long lasting. As such, it is vital that they are cost-effective.

In Angola, we attempted to create a stable programme, and in our time there managed to reach 18,000 people with safe water and 1,000 with sanitation. However, operational costs were deemed too high for any future work to be cost-effective or sustainable. We therefore ended our field activities.

WaterAid continues to work in six countries in Southern Africa. We are also researching other countries in the region where your donations could be invested in cost-effective and sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene programmes.

Why can’t the countries help themselves?

The countries WaterAid works in are among the poorest in the world, with limited national budgets. Building robust water and sanitation sectors and infrastructure takes a lot of dedicated, strategic investment.

Local governments are often made responsible for water and sanitation services, but lack the appropriate funding and specialist help to make progress. Support from a specialist group like WaterAid can change this, and allow local governments to hold national government to account over their responsibilities.

Isn’t population growth the problem?

No. In underdeveloped regions, high birth rates among extremely poor people are partly a response to high child mortality – when a child is less likely to survive, parents are likely to have more children.

However, investing in water and sanitation services helps address this by improving health and reducing child deaths. A reduction in child mortality leads to a reduction in the need for families to have more children.

High birth rates can also be a symptom of a lack of women’s empowerment. Access to water and sanitation, and the time-savings and health benefits it brings, have been shown to increase girls’ school attendance and women’s opportunities. Improving girls’ education and women’s social status are important factors in producing smaller, healthier families.

Are you a religious organisation?

No. We do, however, gratefully accept support from religious community groups and partner with religious organisations in country programmes.

Why do the communities need to pay for the services themselves?

For any service to be sustainable it requires investments from users to cover costs of parts, repairs and salaries for community members who are elected to manage it. Paying for services also helps create responsibility and ownership of them within a community – vital to the success of a long-term solution.

All WaterAid projects are equitable and inclusive. This ensures that tariffs are graded so that everyone can afford to pay them and use the facilities, regardless of gender, caste, disability or any other factor. Those who are unable to afford any grade of tariff usually agree upon other ways to contribute.

How do you ensure your projects are sustainable for the long term? Are they?

Every community has different needs and faces individual challenges depending on location. All WaterAid projects are therefore designed in collaboration with communities to develop solutions most likely to succeed in the long term.

Spare parts must be locally available, and the community are trained in maintaining and managing the chosen solution.

We also conduct post-implementation studies that monitor functionality and the use of facilities, and gain insight from these.

Through the insights such studies provide us, we continually work to improve the sustainability of the services our partners deliver.

Read more about our service delivery work at

Why do you work in the countries you do, and not in others where there is need?

With 844 million people worldwide still lacking access to clean water, and 2.3 billion people do not have a decent toilet, the global water and sanitation crisis is too vast for WaterAid to solve alone.

Should WaterAid have the opportunity to extend our work into new areas, the following criteria are considered:

  • There is potential for WaterAid’s work to be effective and have a long-term positive impact.
  • The country lies at the lower end of the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index, or has pockets of extreme poverty, and a significant part of the population in the country lacks access to water and sanitation.
  • There is an opportunity for WaterAid’s work to compliment the work of others.
  • There is potential for us to influence other organisations to improve access to safe water and sanitation.
  • There is an opportunity for us to widen our experience and knowledge, increasing our credibility and ability to influence global change.

Through our global advocacy work we aim to change international water and sanitation policies so that everyone, everywhere accesses clean water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030.

I’m in contact with a community in the developing world who are in desperate need – can you help?

Due to the scale of the water and sanitation crisis, WaterAid cannot reach everyone on our own. To be as effective as possible, we work to a Global Strategy, which is based on detailed research and planned many years in advance. Because of this, we cannot offer assistance that is not included in our long-term plans.

There are many other agencies that might be able to help, however. We recommend visiting, or other similar NGO directory sites to research other groups who may be able to help. In order to share our skills and expertise, we have published extensive notes on the technologies used in our projects:

Does WaterAid work in emergencies?

As WaterAid is a development organisation, specialising in long-term solutions, we are not set up to respond to emergency situations. However, if an emergency occurs in a region where we are already working, we will assist relief efforts in whatever way we can.

Does WaterAid work in Australia’s indigenous communities?

While WaterAid focuses on water and sanitation in developing countries, particularly countries that have a disproportionate number of people that lack access to safe water and sanitation, we recognise that indigenous communities in Australia have their own water and sanitation challenges.

Australia’s obligations under the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were agreed in 2015, inform WaterAid’s approach to thinking about water, sanitation and hygiene in indigenous communities. The SDGs demand a global commitment to ensure that “no one is left behind”: the goals and targets are to be met for all income and social groups in developed and developing countries, including Australia.  

To date, Australia has not reported on access to water and sanitation in indigenous communities as part of the SDG process. In addition, the Prime Minister’s Annual Report to Parliament on Closing the Gap does not include data on access to water and sanitation. WaterAid is consulting with key stakeholders about this gap and is considering what role we should play in ensuring improved reporting is achieved.

How much of your expenditure goes to those who need it, and how much goes on fundraising?

In the financial year April 2016 to March 2017 WaterAid Australia used 70% of our funding on our programs which includes both our international programs and community education. We spent 23% on raising funds from the public. Accountability and administration comprised 7% of our total expenditure and enabled us to maintain our commitment to the Australian public of being a transparent and accountable organisation.

A full breakdown of our income and expenditure can be found in our Annual Report.

Are you a registered charity?

Yes, we are a registered charity. Our registration numbers are ABN 99 700 687 141 (Australia), 288701 (England and Wales), SC039479 (Scotland), 802426-1268 (Sweden), EIN/tax ID 30-018-1674 (United States).

Why don’t charities doing the same work merge together?

The huge scale of the global water and sanitation crisis means that inevitably there are many charities across the world trying to tackle it. However, attempting to merge these thousands of groups and work as one organisation would pose many challenges in logistics and practices, risking inefficiency.

There are already coalitions and networks that oversee the work of many of these charities. These help to eliminate overlap and duplication of effort in areas where more than one charity may be working, and create opportunities to collaborate and share knowledge and ideas.

As a leader in the sector, WaterAid’s successful working practices are often cited by other organisations in their own work. For this reason, we readily share information through such resources as our technologies page:

How much does a well cost?

It is very hard to give the general cost of a well, as the cost of specific items varies from country to country. Each community project also has its own associated costs of technical requirements and training for the community to manage and maintain their systems in the future.

We prefer not to direct donations to specific items or projects. The administration costs would be too high, so we designate donations as ‘unrestricted’ general funds instead, to be used wherever the need is greatest. This helps give us flexibility in how we work too.

Can I visit or volunteer to work on one of your overseas projects?

WaterAid does not send volunteers to projects. We believe it is vital that each community take responsibility for constructing, maintaining and managing their project themselves ¬– receiving specialist support and training from our local partner agencies in the region.

As the communities we work with are often in very remote areas, any visit would also require detailed planning and use up valuable staff time and resources. Out of respect for the communities, we do not encourage self-funded trips to our projects either.

If you would like to see examples of our work, we do have many real life case studies showing how clean, safe water and sanitation have changed the lives of people around the world.

Why do you ask for more donations, I already support?

Your support is hugely appreciated, and our work depends on the kindness and generosity of people like you.

However, due to the scale of the water and sanitation crisis, we always need to continue raising funds to complete the work we have started, and to reach more communities in desperate need. Although we raise funds from many different areas and are always looking for new supporters, one of the most cost-effective methods of raising funds is to ask those who are already kindly supporting if they would consider an extra donation.

We understand if you would rather donate at your own discretion and not be asked in the future, so please let us know if there are any fundraising communications you would prefer not to receive

Why do you phone to ask for donations?

Telephone fundraising is one the most cost effective methods of raising the funds we rely on. We focus on monthly gifts as these are essential for our long term planning, and allow us to continue the work we are already committed to and also reach more communities.

We really appreciate all the support we receive, and if you’d prefer not to receive these calls or have any questions, please do let us know, we’d be very happy to help.

If I donate, what mailings would I get?

We are really keen to share our work with supporters so they can see what their support is achieving and how their money is being spent. Our twice yearly magazine Oasis gives a great insight into the communities and people we are working with, and how their lives are being changed by safe, clean water and sanitation. We also send a couple of updates and appeals throughout the year. Please let us know if you would like to amend the communications you receive from us in any way.

Why do you prefer people to make regular gifts?

We ask people to make regular gifts to WaterAid so that we have a steady and predictable income. Giving regularly by bank transfer is the most cost effective way to make a donation as it saves money on administration – meaning more can go to our water and sanitation work.

Regular gifts give long-term security and enable us to plan sustainable projects. In each country where we work the need is great and we have ambitious plans in place to help more people gain access to water and sanitation. Regular gifts give us the security and confidence to plan and carry on with our work

Many people also find that they prefer to spread the cost of giving over small, regular instalments. This way they are able to give more over time and we can therefore help more people in the world to access to clean safe water and sanitation.

Why do you ask for specific amounts of money in your appeals?

We have found that supporters like to know what their money can achieve and so we give examples on our appeals of what impact certain amounts can have, but the choice of what you give is entirely yours.

In the countries where we work a small amount of money can often go a long way, so even a small gift can make a big difference to people in the world's poorest countries.

Many supporters also prefer to be given guidance as to the level of their donation and find it actually makes their decision easier.

Why do you film people drinking dirty water, can’t your film crew help?

The images in our films are the daily reality for some of the world’s poorest people. It’s vital that we raise awareness of this appalling situation which affects roughly one tenth of the world’s entire population. A film crew cannot provide a long-term solution – once they leave, the people featured will have no choice but to continue drinking dirty water.

However, the communities featured in our appeals are part of our planned work and will have access to safe water very soon.

Are my donations secure?

Yes, the donation pages of our website are hosted on ‘https’ – an application which protects data securely. When you visit the page asking for card details, the ‘https’ padlock symbol will appear in your web browser’s address bar to indicate that information being entered is secure. WaterAid also adheres to strict data protection protocols when processing supporters’ data.

I’ve got some spare equipment – do you want to send it to your projects?

Thank you but WaterAid does not ship equipment overseas to our projects. All materials are locally sourced – this means the community can access spare parts for the future, and it helps the local economy. We sometimes suggest selling your equipment and making a donation instead.