Dirty water_ John Laing

Stronger regulators crucial to improving sanitation services for the poorest, report finds

A new report published by Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) and the Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation (ESAWAS) Regulators Association identifies how stronger regulators can play an important role in improving sanitation for under-served urban residents. The report, entitled Referee! Responsibilities, regulations and regulating for urban sanitation, has four key […]


This Discussion Paper synthesises experience from Eastern and Southern Africa and Bangladesh to explore the evolving role of regulators in driving urban sanitation service improvements.

The paper argues that effective regulators and regulations are urgently needed to improve urban sanitation services to the poorest, and highlights some ways in which this can be achieved.

The paper features six case studies of diverse regulatory initiatives, ranging from sanitation surcharges and specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to national-level institutional and regulatory frameworks. In each case, the paper aims to document how progress has been made, but also to critically assess future challenges to implementation. Key messages of the paper are:

  • Regulatory effectiveness is a core driver of improved sanitation services. Every football match needs a referee.
  • Regulations are not enough. Clear responsibilities and active regulating are essential.
  • Problems cannot be solved in one bold step. Active regulating involves incremental change, extensive consultation and testing.
  • A Regulating Ladder could support countries in their journey towards active regulating.

This is a joint publication between The Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation Regulators Association (ESAWAS) and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP).

A vision of a Green City: can improved sanitation help?

 With nearly half the urban population in Bangladesh lacking access to safe sanitation services, a sanitation waste partnership between the public and private sector, is helping tackle the challenge. In Bangladesh, nearly 60 million residents live in urban areas. Utilities and are struggling to cope with this rapid urban growth. Delivering citywide sanitation services […]


Rebooting the system: Lessons from Lusaka and Maputo

To mark World Toilet Day, we’ve launched a new report which identifies steps needed to support cities in delivering citywide sanitation services. The report, entitled Systems Reboot, identifies four components crucial to bringing change for all urban residents: Begin by optimising one part of the system, to overcome institutional inertia and secure buy-in for wider […]


In one in seven countries, access to basic sanitation is decreasing. Even in cities, where access to safely managed sanitation is more prevalent than in rural areas, gaps between the rich and the poor continue to be stark.

But what does this look like at a city level?

This Discussion Paper provides examples of how a systems approach can be applied at a city level by looking at two cities – Lusaka, Zambia and Maputo, Mozambique – that have experienced positive change in their on-site sanitation sector over the last decade.

Each case study contains an in-depth examination of one particular component of the system that was identified by stakeholders as being particularly crucial: a community-based, utility-managed faecal sludge management (FSM) service in Lusaka, and the design of a sanitation tariff in Maputo.

The report identifies four components crucial to bringing change for all urban residents:

  1. Begin by optimising one part of the system, to overcome institutional inertia and secure buy-in for wider change
  2. Embrace the power of process, recognising that simply bringing people together to discuss challenges can help to move change forward
  3. Design investments to address genuine system constraints, rather than purely directing investment towards more tangible infrastructure projects
  4. Anticipate and factor in delays, due to the likelihood of unexpected political, economic or capacity constraints slowing down progress
Chamanculo sanitation block, Maputo

Does improved sanitation mean healthier kids?

The MapSan trial was a major 4-year research project which aimed to evaluate the health impacts of a shared sanitation intervention delivered by WSUP in the slums of Maputo. It’s the largest ever high-rigour study of the health impacts of urban sanitation. And now the long-awaited results are out. By Guy Norman, WSUP’s Director of […]