Publicly owned service providers are responsible for the vast majority of water and sanitation services in cities.

As cities grow rapidly, the need for improved water and sanitation services is increasing sharply.

But there simply isn’t the capacity within many service providers to provide these services, particularly to low-income customers.

They might lack adequate sources of investment, suffer from high water losses in their network, and lack the experience needed to provide services that are suitable for residents living in informal settlements.

Increasing the capacity of service providers is one of the most effective ways in which we can move towards achieving universal access to water and sanitation in urban areas.

For us, capacity building entails knowledge transfer through technical assistance as well as demonstration of innovative technologies that help utilities and businesses to better serve their customers.

Capacity building versus hand-holding: how to avoid dependency syndrome

Capacity building has the power to transform organisations into stronger and more resilient service providers. However, it can be difficult to strike the right balance between being supportive and inadvertently making yourself indispensable.

Blog: February 2020 – Capacity building versus hand-holding: how to avoid dependency syndrome

Strengthening utilities

WSUP has developed a Utility Strengthening Framework, which provides an approach to improving how a utility can function, across the entirety of its operations – based on the logic that in order to delivery services to the poorest residents, it needs to improve its effectiveness across the breadth of the organisation.

Blog: June 2019 – A utility strengthening approach to tackling water scarcity

Report: November 2018 – A journey of institutional change – extending water services to Nairobi’s informal settlements

Helping municipalities develop communal sanitation services

In crowded urban settlements, there simply isn’t the space – or funding – for each household to have their own toilet.

Instead, well-managed shared toilets can be a solution and so in cities such as Maputo, Mozambique, we have worked with the municipality to help them design appropriate sanitation facilities. We have also worked to embed the capacity within the community to ensure that the toilets are sustainably operated and managed.

Blog: August 2018 – Shared sanitation: benefitting residents in Maputo and beyond

Communal sanitation block

Enabling utilities to make better use of their available water

As the demand for water increases, and climate change places stress on water availability, finding ways to effectively manage water has never been more urgent.

High levels of water wastage can mean customers can’t get the water to their taps. Poor billing also has an significant impact, resulting a lack of income for a utility which compromises its ability to invest in improved services.

Film: June 2019 – The Leak Squad: preserving Antananarivo’s most precious resource

Supporting small-scale sanitation operators

The private sector can play a valuable role in the collection of faecal waste from pit latrines and septic tanks. However, sometimes the market is under-developed and requires our external intervention to overcome the obstacles.

WSUP has found that small businesses and entrepreneurs benefit from training to help them provide suitable services to vulnerable households whilst also building their businesses. We have worked to build the capacity of these operators in Bangladesh, Kenya and Mozambique.

Video: November 2019 – scaling up a public-private partnership in Bangladesh

Learn more about WSUP’s enterprise development work.

SWEEP operators at work, Bangladesh