Making funds available for the sector is not only critical to extend infrastructure, but also to finance software components, such as building institutional capacity, monitoring, regulation and demand creation. Ensuring efficiency and equity in the use of these funds is also critical, especially in light of limited public funds and the tremendous task of achieving universal and sustainable access to water and sanitation services by 2030. In this context, leveraging funds from the private sector, including from households, and supporting private sector participation in the delivery of water and sanitation services will also prove to be essential, although this will take different forms in different country contexts. 

At Aguaconsult, we advise governments, bilateral and multilateral financing organisations and NGOs on optimum financing strategies. We assess the efficiency, sustainability and equity in the use of public funds, and how they could be applied so as to leverage additional funds from the private sector, whether from tariffs or repayable finance.

We assess the use of innovative financing mechanisms, including microfinance and results-based approaches. We also review and advise on contractual arrangements with the private sector, whether in the context of urban utilities, small piped water schemes in rural areas, or decentralized faecal sludge services, with the view to ensure a balanced risk allocation and that the right incentives are in place for performing and equitable services. Specific tasks that we perform in these areas include:

To find out what we are doing in the area of financing and how we can help, contact our financing specialist Goufrane Mansour.

Water Services

Water Services

Water for human consumption is one of the focal areas for Aguaconsult in the provision of technical services. Access to potable water, coupled with improved environmental sanitation and positive hygiene behaviours are all critical factors in public health and broader social welfare. Improving water services can also provide livelihood opportunities for the poor and thereby contribute to poverty reduction efforts. Unfortunately, for many millions of poor people around the world such access to sustained services is still lacking, despite the large-scale investments made in the sector over the past decades.

Despite the tens of billions of euros invested in delivering new and improving existing water infrastructure, there is evidence that many such physical systems cannot be maintained, fall into disrepair and all too often fail. Aguaconsult has been at the forefront of driving change particularly in the context of rural water provision and has been instrumental in building a new paradigm in policy and practice. Our work in the late 1990s and early 2000s challenged the long-standing orthodoxy that community management of systems was a panacea and we carried out research into the provision of long-term support, specifically in the Latin American region. Since that time we have been at the forefront of the global debate, bringing new insights and action research findings, and building a compelling case for addressing rural water supply as a service rather than the provision of one-off infrastructure projects.

Evidence from a range of countries including Ghana, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Uganda, India and elsewhere suggests that to sustain true services the development community at large – including national governments, donor agencies and civil society implementers – needs to change policy, practice and funding to support a ‘whole system’ to function better. This system includes not only sound construction and appropriate technologies, but also effective support for communities, strong and well-trained local government, a vibrant private sector supplier of goods and services, robust monitoring and some form of asset management to ensure physical systems are maintained.

Above all services will only be sustained properly when there is a clear intuitional framework in place, in which different actors understand their mandates and where national governments and regulators show effective leadership. This requires a commitment to public finance as well as relying on strategic aid funding. Aguaconsult has deep expertise in the analysis and development of the institutional context of water services in developing and transition countries. Examples in this core area include:

 To find out what we are doing in the area of Water and how we can help, contact Harold Lockwood or Julia Boulenouar.

Urban Services

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Urban Services

Rapid, and at times alarming, rates of urbanisation on all continents, coupled with haphazard spatial development of urban areas have led to a growing number of urban poor with no access to basic services. This population and its environment represent both an enormous challenge and opportunity.

With the proportion of urban poor ranging from 28% in Latin America to up to 76% in South Asia and over 800 million slum dwellers living in dire conditions, tackling urban poverty and its spatial manifestations through thoughtful urban planning and the provision of basic services such as water sanitation, transport and housing, is a critical priority for both economic and social development and welfare more generally.

The provision of technical support in urban services is a new focal area for Aguaconsult and builds on experience working in urban planning, urban governance and urban services both in developed and developing countries, for planning organisations and bilateral organisation. In collaboration with major European consulting companies, Aguaconsult can provide the following services to a range of clients:

• Project identification, design and evaluation
• Support to funding or implementation organisations during project implementation
• Research into less well understood aspects of urban service provision and spatial planning

To learn more about how Aguaconsult can support your organisation in this area, please contact Julia Boulenouar.

Sanitation & Hygiene

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Sanitation and Hygiene

Across the globe, 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate and reliable sanitation services  - the lack of effective human waste disposal, both solid and liquid, together with poor hygiene practices pose considerable public health risks globally, and particularly to the rural and urban poor – the disease burden from poor sanitation and hygiene affects major development outcomes, particularly in health, nutrition, education and economic development – whilst sector discourse on sanitation and hygiene focuses on reduction of diseases, to those lacking basic services, particularly women and children, it is also an issue of safety, dignity, respect.

Approaches to rural sanitation and hygiene have shifted progressively from donor handouts to user-financed community led approaches, however sustained improvements have been a challenge, and approaches to enable households to ‘climb the sanitation ladder’ are still far from perfect. The urban context presents ever-growing challenges, with innovations in faecal and solid waste management, business models, and more sophisticated social marketing for behaviour change showing some limited success stories, but clearly there is a long way to go, especially to insure the inclusion of the ultra-poor.

Aguaconsult has project experience providing technical support on sanitation and hygiene to programmes and governments, and advising on sustainable services for both water and sanitation from programme to national level, for example advising the Government of Ghana in the development of its national sanitation strategy.

The Aguaconsult team has diverse experience in sanitation and hygiene, covering aspects such as technologies, policy and sector planning, institutional review, financing, behaviour change and market-based approaches, environmental health enforcement, urban services and planning, (local) private sector development, and integrating sanitation and hygiene into wider health and nutrition interventions.

For more information please contact Georges Mikhael or Will Tillett.

Community management for rural water supply

Community management for rural water supply is dead, long live community management!

The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill invited Harold Lockwood of Aguaconsult to contribute to a policy research digest on the future of community management. The Digest has a considerable readership among policy makers and is disseminated through various channels that allow us to access them, such as the Sanitation and Water for All partnership.

The focus of this edition is on the viability of community management as the predominant model - and policy approach - of many countries in the global south. Based on a review of existing and recent literature Harold sets out the argument that while community management may not be sufficient as the predominant, or only, management approach in many contexts, it should be retained, with greater professionalization and support, alongside a range of other options, including utilities, local private sector operators and, at the other end of the rural spectrum, structured support for self-supply approaches to improve services for the most dispersed communities.

The reality is that  community management is still 'working',  to the extent that many many millions of people around the world still receive a level of service provided for under this model, albeit with a range of experience and use satisfaction, from very high to completely dysfunctional – the key questions is, where does that range of experience sit?

The literature suggests that no one calls for the complete abandonment of community management, but that the model clearly needs (much better) improvement and support in many contexts. In the USA for example, where many millions of rural people still manage their own systems there is a very well-structured system of support, advice, training, access to financing etc. (RCAP is one of a couple of organizations helping to do this: Clearly the USA experience is not reflective of the global reality, so the question then becomes how to provide better support in resource scarce environments – through increasing tariffs, more public financing or some other route?

Finally, he highlights the reality that in countries which are growing in economic terms, where expectations are rising (either through migration, urban-rural links, IT and mobile phone links) and rural demographics are changing the nature of communities (with more densely population villages and small towns), a form of voluntary community management is no longer enough to service complex assets and technologies, large customer bases and the need for proper customer service.

The policy research digest is available here.