The issue explained

Sustainability is about ensuring that services continue to work over time. It’s about having the right infrastructure in place, and a system around it that keeps the benefits flowing. It's about developing the skills of communities, governments and service providers to finance, manage and maintain services.

Water and sanitation services are under threat when there is insufficient money and skill available to maintain them on an ongoing basis. Without strong systems in place to turn policies into action, to build a workforce of skilled professional to plan, manage and maintain services, and to check how money is being spent, there is a risk of poor quality projects which fail to provide benefits over time.

The reasons for this are many and complex, but can be best summed up by the simple fact that no-one likes talking about taps and toilets - their benefits are either poorly understood or underappreciated, and few agencies or governments have prioritised investing in them.

In addition, climate change, disasters, and increasing pressure on water and land resources from growing populations and competing uses, all affect service sustainability and must be addressed.

Jose Luis Roman demonstrates one of his inventions – a rope pump which draws water by cycling on a stationary bicycle. Jose is the founder of AMEC, a plumbing training programme for local youths. The young people who participate in the training come from neighbourhoods where opportunities are limited – they've usually been identified as 'at risk' by the local police and have had some involvement with gangs and petty crime.  WaterAid/ Jordi Ruiz Cirera

Our approach

We’re addressing this issue on both fronts – addressing the technology, and the political systems that surround it.

On the technology front, we’re focused on selecting the right technology for the local situation. There’s no point installing a water pump in a remote village if the pump requires expensive spare parts that are only produced overseas. To ensure the most appropriate technology is used, we work with local partners and communities to carry out an assessment of the area and then agree on the best ways to meet that community’s needs.

To instil strong systems to manage services into the future, we also make sure we build the skills and capability of governments and service providers so they can ensure services and the institutions supporting them continue operating into the future. So that there’s more money for these essential services, and that this money is better spent.

Local communities are involved every step of the way – from project planning right through to training on maintenance after installation is done. If the people who are going to use these facilities aren’t involved, the chances of failure are much higher. We also support them advocate for their rights - we believe that the more local people and organisations can hold their governments and service providers to account to deliver on their responsibilities and commitments, the more accountable and responsible these bodies become, delivering quality, sustainable services that transform people’s lives for good.

Finally, improving sustainability of is about making solutions more effective through development and innovation. We are constantly exploring new solutions across all aspects of sustainability, whether this is via new technologies, new behaviour change strategies, or improvement to the institutions and regulatory frameworks that underpin services.

When people have access to clean water, a decent toilet and can practice good hygiene they’re less likely to get ill.

Gender equality

We’re working to achieve gender equality, ensuring women and girls are involved.

Building services that last

We’re focused on ensuring that water and sanitation services continue to work over time.