WSUP’s approach

WSUP deals with the particular challenges of citywide sanitation in a number of ways:

  • By recognising that different areas of a city will often require different solutions: cities in developing economies require a mix of sewered and non-sewered (on-site) sanitation
  • By recognising that low-income people can’t pay as much for sanitation services as higher-income people: so low-income people need lower-cost solutions, but not solutions that are so cheap that they’re ineffective
  • By recognising that urban sanitation needs joined-up thinking about cities as a whole, not just households.

To sewer or not to sewer?

In African and South Asian cities, the piped sewer system typically serves the central part of the city: extending sewerage across the city would be very costly, so that universal sewerage is at best several decades away, and maybe never attainable.

WSUP doesn’t reject sewerage, but in most situations, cities need to be investing in “faecal sludge management” alongside sewerage: in other words, systems based around toilets connected to non-sewered septic tanks, with those tanks periodically emptied by trucks which transport the waste to a safe location, for treatment and ideally reuse.

Affordably effective, effectively affordable

Finding sanitation solutions which are affordable to low-income consumers, but at the same time effective, is a key challenge. Often, the best solution will combine private enterprise with public subsidy and oversight.

For example, WSUP supports the Clean Team business in Ghana, which operates a container toilet rental model, with the rental fee covering collection of the container when full. Read more about Clean Team.

In Bangladesh, WSUP supports SWEEP, a public-private partnership model in which pit-emptiers are leased trucks by the utility. In all of such cases, true viability is likely to require a mix of private enterprise and public subsidy. Read more about SWEEP.

Sanitation across cities

Research suggests that the health benefits of improved sanitation typically require 70 or 80% coverage: in other words, there’s little to be gained by improving your own toilet if your neighbours are still discharging waste onto the street.

This has multiple implications for WSUP’s work: for example, it means we support not just toilet construction, but also the development of city-level systems for waste transport and treatment. It also means we put a lot of effort into supporting city-level and national policy development, including regulatory systems and financing models.