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.

Together we make a lasting difference.

Sustainability is at the heart of our projects that means equipping and training community members with the proper resources and tools to ensure the longevity of projects.

WaterAid/ Basile Ouedrogo

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 in advocating for their rights - we believe that the more local people can hold their governments to account, the more accountable and responsible they become, delivering quality, sustainable services that transform people’s lives for good. Finally, improving sustainability 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 behavior change strategies, or improvement to the institutions and regulatory frameworks that underpin services.

Working with local partners

We work with these local partners to ensure capacity and skills are developed at a local level:

  • Local non-government organizations (NGOs)
  • Local and national government departments
  • Private utility companies

We invest in local partner organizations to enable them to deliver lasting changes for their communities. We typically provide financial support, training and technical advice, as well as help with planning, budgeting and organizational development.

As partners grow stronger, they become less reliant on WaterAid's technical and financial support and can seek funds from other sources. When this happens, we often start working with newer or less well-established partners, with the cycle of training and development starting again.

Using the right technology

We use technologies that are low-cost, appropriate to the local area, and can be easily maintained by the communities who use them.
For more information on the technology used in water and sanitation, visit our technology page.


Women collecting water using a pond sand filter


Here, women are collect water from a Pond Sand Filter plant initiated by WaterAid. The water in the Dacope region of Bangladesh is saline, and unsafe for drinking. PSF is a simple technology in which water is pumped from a pond and passed through a number of chambers containing sand and gravel. The treated water is safe for drinking.