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.

Core to WSUP’s guiding strategy is the belief that market-based solutions will contribute significantly to sustainable progress in tackling the world’s biggest challenge: water and sanitation for all.

However, financially viable business models targeting the poorest residents are just not very many.

Our work with local service providers, social enterprises, and WASH-driven start-ups, seeks to de-risk entry into the water and sanitation market, and drive growth for the business models with the potential to create lasting change.

The ideas outlined in this report explores how social enterprises and sustainable investors can work together to make SDG 6 a reality.

Read more about this report on NextBillion.

Running Dry front cover

WSUP has identified five myths which are stopping investors, agencies and policymakers from properly addressing the inadequate access to essential water and sanitation services in cities across Africa and South Asia.


Myth one: Struggling utilities are unable to serve the poorest

The reality: Much-maligned, publicly owned utilities can deliver services for the poorest communities.

Myth two: Water should be free

The reality: Water is a human right, but people should still pay for it. Even the poorest.

Myth three: Communities should be responsible for their own services

The reality: Community ownership can result in poor services. We should be aiming for community buy-in instead.

Myth four: We should only focus on household facilities

The reality: Community sanitation facilities can help bridge the gap when household facilities are not viable.

Myth five: Building toilets alone will solve the sanitation crisis

The reality: Solving the waste management conundrum is bigger than just building toilets.


This publication describes the methodology used by WSUP in citywide surveys of water and sanitation service levels in 7 cities in 2017/2018.

These were surveys designed to give an assessment of water and sanitation service levels across the city, with a particular focus on low-income areas. Surveys were relatively low-cost with total sample size in each city ranging from 600 to 2400 households. Design and delivery of surveys of this type requires multiple decisions, and we have produced this publication in the view that this recent WSUP experience may be useful to other organisations who wish to carry out low-cost citywide surveys of WASH service levels.

We present our experience as adaptable guidance, not as an inflexible recipe: each survey will of course have different aims and constraints.

Download the summary poster in Nakuru.

Climate change is already having a huge impact in many parts of the world. In countries where WSUP works, poor water availability poses serious risks to society, and as extreme weather events become increasingly frequent, this challenge is worsening.

This paper highlights how WSUP works to support climate resilience.

Women and girls primarily bear the responsibility for household water supply and child care, and are the most affected by poor sanitation.

The amount of time spent locating and collecting water represents a major barrier to economic gain and empowerment as it reduces time available for income generating activities and school attendance.

This paper highlights how WSUP is driving sector change with gender inclusive services.

Lead author: IMC Worldwide.

The overall aim of the project is to respond to the Government of Ghana’s interest to establish a National Sanitation Authority (NSA) to prioritise sanitation service delivery and achieve Ghana’s commitment to SDG Goal 6. The Ministry of Sanitation & Water Resources (MSWR) has requested the Urban Sanitation Research Initiative in Ghana to undertake a policy research project to assist in decision-making around the setup of the proposed NSA. The specific objective of the assignment is to provide technical support to the MSWR and other key stakeholders to help decide upon the role/function and structure of the proposed NSA, and its relationship with other institutions.

The decision-making process about the roles and responsibilities of the NSA and the institutional structure is informed by an international review and assessment of the institutional arrangements for the sanitation sector in the following fifteen countries. The aim is to assess how effective these institutional models are and consider their viability and appropriateness within the context for the expectations from existing Ghanaian authorities, utilities, NGOs and civil society.

Africa: Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.
South America and Asia: Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Vietnam.

This report presents the findings from these assessments on the assumption that one, or a combination of these examples, is likely to provide the basis for the model to be adopted in Ghana.

Water, crises and conflict in MENA

By the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), UNICEF and WSUP Advisory

Protracted conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have left tens of millions of people in need of humanitarian and development assistance to have access to water. But the capacity of local water service providers (state-owned and private) to maintain adequate levels of services has decreased as conflicts and population movements across the region have continued, mainly towards urban areas.

Other actors including United Nations agencies, international organisations, local NGOs and independent – often informal – water providers have played an important role in filling gaps in supply. This study analyses all these actors’ responses to continuing the supply of water during conflicts, focusing on factors of resilience building that particularly concern local service providers.

Read more about the project which led to this report.

Business case for investing in WASH report cover

Sustainable Development Goal 6 seeks universal access to water and sanitation by 2030. The 2017 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme Report states; “Universal implies all settings, not only to households, but also schools, health care facilities, workplaces and other public spaces”.

The private sector has a critical role to play in contributing to this compelling vision through their ability to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) as part of their core business operations. This paper provides working examples on how to make progress in service delivery in and beyond the workplace. Through this process, business can simultaneously also reap the benefits of cost savings, business growth and opportunities for collaboration.

The paper presents three reasons why businesses should invest in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH):

1. Positive impact on the business model and bottom line
2. Wide ranging economic benefits
3. Direct contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals 2015-2030

The business case was developed as part of the WASH4Work initiative with contributions from: Diageo, Gap, The CEO Water Mandate, UNICEF, Unilever and WaterAid.

A joint report by EY and WSUP. For many low-income residents in urban areas, flush toilets and connections to a piped sewer or septic system are simply not an option. Frequently the infrastructure just doesn’t exist (and may take years to come), systems are too expensive or technically difficult to construct (particularly in densely populated, flood prone, hilly or rocky areas) or service fees are too high. The world needs a viable, high-quality alternative to piped sanitation. That’s why a small number of groups around the world — including Clean Team in Ghana, which was set up and is managed by WSUP — are pioneering the concept of container-based sanitation.