For the poorest urban residents, one of the most significant ways in which climate change is affecting their lives is through access to water and sanitation.

In sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, water and sanitation service providers are struggling to respond to the needs of communities, and climate change is making it harder for these providers to expand services to keep pace with urbanisation. This challenge represents a major threat towards the ability of cities to adapt to climate change and could compromise their future sustainability.

This report analyses the impacts of climate change on access to water and sanitation across cities and towns in seven countries. It outlines the challenges that service providers are facing and documents initiatives that are taking place to tackle the issue. Based on this analysis, WSUP presents four recommendations for helping water and sanitation providers to tackle the threat caused by climate change.

The residents of the coastal town of Malindi, popular for its beautiful beaches, largely depend on on-site sanitation. There is no waste treatment plant and only 25% of the waste is safely managed. As a result, 90% of hand dug wells are contaminated causing serious health risks in the communities.

Leaders in Kilifi County Government and the water and sanitation utility, Malindi Water and Sewerage Company (MAWASCO) have recognised the urgent need to improve the sanitation and solid waste challenges in the city and have created an ambitious plan to tackle this problem.

This summary report shares the vision for city-wide inclusive sanitation (CWIS) and the developed action and investment plans.

Shared sanitation has immensely contributed to sanitation access in urban areas, but is at best considered a “limited” solution due to the lack of quality standards within Sustainable Development Goal 6.

This policy brief presents the main results of the QUISS project (Quality Indicators of Shared Sanitation), a three-country comparative mixed-methods study that identified the key criteria of what constitutes “acceptable quality” shared toilets in urban low-income contexts and provides recommendations for strengthening the acceptability, functionality and sustainability of shared sanitation facilities.

Click the button below for overall results.

Country specific policy briefs:

QUISS Policy Brief: Bangladesh

QUISS Policy Brief: Ghana

QUISS Policy Brief: Kenya

Marginalised urban communities are often characterised by three things: complexity, interdependence of challenges, and constant evolution.

The sheer numbers of people living close together in poorly planned communities can make improving the quality of life extremely difficult. The rapid rate of urbanisation – by 2050, the number of people living in African cities will double to 1.5 billion – means that there is no such thing as the status quo. Every month, every year, unplanned urban settlements get larger, and more complex.

In urban environments, issues such as water access, drainage, health, street design and solid waste management are all inextricably linked. Poor drainage leads to flooding, causing damage to flimsy sanitation facilities. Rubbish collected in drainage canals can exacerbate the issue and lead to stagnant water which becomes a breeding ground for disease. Sanitation facilities cannot be safely emptied if poor road access makes it impossible for emptying services to operate.

Tackling these issues in an integrated manner makes intuitive sense – but too often it just doesn’t happen, due to significant barriers such as cost, complexity, and the siloed nature of the development sector.

This report by Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) and Arquitectura sin Fronteras (also known as ASF-España, referred to in the report as ASF-E), examines how to overcome this immense challenge, from the perspective of water and sanitation services.

The report demonstrates why water and sanitation improvements can be more effective when combined with other areas of urban development, and analyses how, in practice, this integration can occur.

Drawing on evidence from cities such as Maputo, Accra, Nairobi and Antananarivo, the report finds that integrating WASH with wider slum development can improve the overall impact, and the ease of delivery, of WASH services.

For urban sanitation systems to function safely, at scale, over time, and inclusively, they must be organized to support three functions: responsibilityaccountability, and resource planning and management.

This short publication looks at the function of resource planning and management, drawing on a desk review of over 40 urban sanitation investments in twenty-eight countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

For urban sanitation systems to function safely, at scale, over time, and inclusively, they must be organized to support three functions: responsibilityaccountability, and resource planning and management.

In this paper, we explore the accountability mechanisms that can be applied to the different service provision mandate structures identified in our parallel paper on responsibilities.

For urban sanitation systems to function safely, at scale, over time, and inclusively, they must be organized to support three functions: responsibilityaccountability, and resource planning and management.

This short publication looks at the function of responsibility: the extent to which sanitation authorities are clearly mandated.

Women and girls living in Kenya’s low-income settlements frequently lack access to basic menstrual hygiene materials.

This Practice Note details the development of a business model for low-cost sanitary products in Naivasha, the setbacks encountered, and what WSUP has learnt from the pilot intervention.

This discussion paper explores how high-quality sanitation can be achieved in low-income urban areas in developing contexts. It is based on findings from four research projects conducted under, or in association with, WSUP’s Urban Sanitation Research Initiative 2016–2020 (USRI), funded by DFID.

The four research projects considered here are:

  1. The Faecal Pathogen Flows study in Dhaka, Bangladesh — aiming to track and model how faecal pathogens move through urban low-income communities (LICs), as a tool to support sanitation intervention planning in developing contexts.
  2. The MapSan study carried out in Maputo, Mozambique — one of the largest and most rigorous studies ever conducted of the health impacts of an urban sanitation intervention.
  3. The QUISS study — based on large-scale surveys in Bangladesh, Ghana and Kenya, aiming to identify minimum standards for high-quality shared sanitation in urban contexts, and workable indicators of shared sanitation quality.
  4. The Clean Team evaluation — assessing customer experience among customers of Clean Team Ghana, a container-based sanitation enterprise.

In cities across Africa, rapidly expanding low-income communities (LICs) pose unique technical and social challenges to utilities in expanding services – but they also present an opportunity to expand the customer base and generate revenues. COVID-19 is placing huge additional pressures on the financial viability of utilities, exacerbating the need for innovative service delivery models to this segment of the customer base. In the context of short and long-term challenges posed by COVID-19, water utilities must take every measure available to improve the efficiency of operations: service quality and attention to the customer will be even more important; greater control will be required over the distribution network; and billing and revenues will need to be maximized to support the bottom line.

Smart Water Meters are a new technology with the potential to assist utilities in this process of transformation. The model offers greater control for the customer, through a flexible prepayment tailored to the spending habits of low-income households; and greater control for the utility, enabling real-time data on water demand across the supply area, and supporting a shift from reactive firefighting to preventative planning. Pilots of the technology to date have produced good results; however, more testing is needed, particularly in LICs. One project expected to inform the evidence base is a pilot of 500 smart meters recently underway in Watamu, in the Kenyan district of Malindi.

This article is part of a review by The Veolia Institute – check out the full publication here.