Sustainability is about ensuring that services continue to work overtime. It’s about having the right infrastructure in place, and a system around it, that keeps the benefits into the future.

WaterAid and Sustainability

In our work, sustainability is about ensuring that water and sanitation services continue to work long into the future. It’s about having the right infrastructure in place, and a system around the infrastructure that keeps the benefits flowing.

In many of the countries where we work, the systems and institutions needed to sustainably manage water, sanitation, and hygiene services are extremely weak or simply don't exist. When they do exist, they often suffer from insufficient financing, limited capacity, and poor governance structures.

Without adequate systems and institutions, communities can struggle to keep services working on their own, and behaviour change improvements can be lost without continual promotion and reinforcement. 

In addition, climate change, ecosystem degradation, pollution, disasters, and increasing pressure on water and land resources from growing populations and competing uses have an impact on service sustainability.

At WaterAid it's about developing the skills of communities, governments, and service providers to finance, manage, and maintain services to deliver permanent benefits to their users. To achieve universal and lasting access to clean water, decent toilets, and good hygiene by 2030, attention must be given to the sustainability of services and behaviour change. Watch this short film to find out the solutions:

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 water and sanitation services continue to work over time.

Image: WaterAid/ James Kiyimba

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 based on the local context. 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.

We work with governments and local actors at all levels, including communities, to identify and address the barriers in behaviours, policies, processes, resources, interactions, and institutions that block achievement of inclusive, lasting, universal access to water, sanitation, and hygiene. We make sure we build the skills and capability of governments and service providers so they can ensure services and the institutions supporting them continue to operate in the future.

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 organizations 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.

We aim to address all of the issues that have an impact on the sustainability of services, be they social, financial, environmental, institutional, legal, capacity-related, or technical. We are committed to ensuring permanent services and behaviour change through a mixture of approaches, including:

  • Creating strong demand for services.
  • Ensuring high quality implementation, promoting good practice in service delivery for wider uptake by governments and service providers.
  • Working in support of national systems, pushing for a strong, enabling national policy and regulatory environment.
  • Strengthening accountability and customer satisfaction mechanisms through a rights-based approach.
  • Supporting local private sector initiatives that strengthen supply chains.
  • Partnering with education and health services to ensure that sanitation and hygiene behavior change messaging continues to be relayed.
  • Building the resilience of service users to cope with external threats to sustainability.
  • Carrying out in-depth research into specific areas with an impact on sustainability.
  • Monitoring the water supply, sanitation and hygiene services we have funded for at least ten years after implementation. We use the results to understand what works and what doesn’t.