Grand Challenges Canada (GCC); Venture Advisor Support

Aguaconsult is providing strategic support to sanitation focused ventures supported by Grand Challenges Canada (GCC).  This includes providing specific support to enable ventures to progress in scale and sustainability to be able to access Trasition-to-Scale funding.

Clean Team & Safi Sana (Ghana), Sanivation (Kenya), X-runner (Peru), LooWatt (Madagasgar) and SOIL (Haiti).

Quality Check: How can we ensure sanitation achieves health and quality of life outcomes in low-income areas?

Can shared toilet facilities provide quality sanitation? What criteria do planners need to think about when seeking quality sanitation? Yes, sanitation is known to have positive health outcomes, but what specific systems provide the most health benefits, especially in low-income areas? In 2017-2020, WSUP commissioned a number of research projects in Ghana, Bangladesh and Kenya to answer some of these questions. Very concrete recommendations to policy-makers have come out, including:

  1. Shared sanitation is not only a reality in many low-income areas, but it can also be provide quality sanitation under certain conditions
  2. Sanitation systems on their own do not provide the expected health benefits; there must be associated systems and services to either treat the sludge onsite or safely transport and treat waste offsite. Achieving health benefits require a whole systematic approach to sanitation
  3. Often overlooked by planners, users perspective - their feelings privacy, dignity - can and should be used when comparing different options of sanitation systems

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.

Providing ongoing advisory support for the development of CWIS SAP

Aguaconsult, in collaboration with Athena Infonomics and the  Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation Regulators Association, have provided ongoing advisory support for the development of the Citywide Inclusive Sanitation Services Assessment and Planning (CWIS SAP) tool, which helps decision-makers compare the outcomes of different sanitation interventions or investments based on equity, financial sustainability and safety criteria. The results from the tool enable decision-makers (i.e., utilities, regulators, ministries, local government, development finance institutions) to weigh the trade-offs between different options and assess which intervention best meets their objectives.

In 2019-2020, the Water and Sanitation Regulatory Board and Nakuru Water Supply and Sanitation Company in Kenya and the National Water and Sanitation Supply Council and Lusaka Water and Sanitation Company in Zambia piloted the tool, with Aguaconsult providing technical assistance throughout this process. Two learning briefs have been developed, which form part of ongoing series that will be updated as the CWIS SAP tool is applied on a larger scale:

The state of WASH financing in Eastern and Southern Africa

UNICEF’s Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) engaged Aguaconsult through Oxford Policy Management (OPM) to assess the state of financing of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in the Eastern and Southern Africa region (ESAR). The assignment aimed to fill a critical knowledge gap in the region by providing a review of and documenting WASH financing issues at both the regional level and through four country reports.

Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership

Aguaconsult's Harold Lockwood has been providing technical support to the USAID Sustainable WASH systems learning partnership and the latest report on maintenance approaches is now available to download

As rural water supply coverage rates rise across many countries, attention is increasingly being paid to finding and implementing cost-effective mechanisms to ensure this improved initial access is sustained over time. Conventional approaches to maintenance have largely been based on voluntary community-based management with communities taking on the burden of maintenance themselves, with limited, if any, support from external agencies or local government. Recently, there have been attempts to professionalize maintenance services and make these services affordable at the point of delivery. This study considers different variations of maintenance approaches. It provides a typology for characterizing maintenance service provision models, a framework for analyzing them, and an in-depth study of seven maintenance models that represent different cases from the typology of approaches. Based on this comparative analysis, the study outlines emerging trends and recommendations for broader consideration.

Rural Water Supply Network

Aguaconsult is providing pro bono inputs to the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) and is co-lead on the Sustainable Services thematic group along with UNICEF. The Sustainable Services theme of RWSN brings together sector professionals with an interest in sharing, understanding and defining management and support arrangements. The theme builds on previous work done within RWSN, including work on the supply chains for spare parts and the development of frameworks for operation and maintenance. We are embarking on an exciting new strategy in 2021 to identify and engage with groups from the global south directly involved in service delivery, including:

These actors are critical to achievement of the SDG6.1 target but they are difficult to reach from a global platform. Engagement strategies may therefore focus on country or regional level initiatives. Other actors, such as development partners, NGOs, donors and researchers have the potential to strengthen these operational actors and their enabling environments. Late last year we co-hosted a webinar in both English and Spanish on regulation of rural water services, with participation from governments from Colombia, Ghana and the Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation Regulators Association (ESAWAS).  One common experience – and a challenge – to learn from is how to reach and engage with the hundreds and thousands of scattered small operators, who in some cases are reluctant to enter a formal relationship with the regulator; the consensus is to start with a light touch, or 'differential' regulation with support for the operators and not just punitive measures which may drive them away. See the recordings of the webinar here.

Strengthening Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Systems: Concepts, Examples, and Experiences

Strengthening WASH systems is a core focus of Agenda for Change, in their efforts to help governments meet the WASH-related SDGs.
Will Tillett (Aguaconsult), Susan Davis (Agenda for Change) and Angela Huston (IRC) worked together on a paper drawing on case studies from Agenda for Change members working in many different countries. The paper was written to illustrate what Agenda for Change means by 'WASH systems' with examples of efforts to strengthen WASH systems and share experiences of the members efforts to progressively apply a systems approach in their programming.

The State of WASH Financing in Eastern and Southern Africa, Burundi Country Level Assessment

UNICEF’s Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) engaged Aguaconsult through Oxford Policy Management (OPM) to assess the state of financing of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in the Eastern and Southern Africa region (ESAR). The assignment aimed to fill a critical knowledge gap in the region by providing a review of and documenting WASH financing issues at both the regional level and through four country reports.

The country-level assessments provide an in-depth review of sources of WASH sector financing, how finance is channeled through different institutions and the quality and equity of financing and future financing options to achieve sector goals. This regional-level report draws on the country reports and other accessible financing data to provide an overview of current WASH financing in ESAR and provide direction for increasing the volume and impact of future WASH investment. You can download the Burundi country level and regional assessment below.

The State of WASH Financing in Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Level Assessment

UNICEF’s Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) engaged Aguaconsult through Oxford Policy Management (OPM) to assess the state of financing of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in the Eastern and Southern Africa region (ESAR). The assignment aimed to fill a critical knowledge gap in the region by providing a review of and documenting WASH financing issues at both the regional level and through four country reports. Together these reports seek to influence sector-level planning and advocacy activities to support more effective allocation and use of resources by government ministries, donors and other financiers engaged in delivering, operating and maintaining WASH services.
This report focuses on WASH financing for the entire ESAR and follows the development of four country reports (Burundi, Eswatini, Uganda and Zimbabwe). You can download the regional report and the Burundi country report below

The Sustainable Services Initiative discussion paper on systems strengthening in sanitation and hygiene.

WASH systems thinking has, over the years, been arguably more focused on water supply than sanitation and hygiene. Will Tillett (Aguaconsult) has collaborated with Robert Gensch (German Toilet Organisation) in the development of a discussion paper seeking to adapt systems concepts and conceptual frameworks to better represent these WASH sub-sectors. The paper proposes an adapted conceptual framework for WASH systems, and suggests checklists that could be used to analyse the status of the WASH system. It also includes examples of systems strengthening for sanitation and hygiene across the nine proposed ‘building blocks’ of the WASH system. The paper was undertaken as part of the Sustainable Services Initiative, with support from Viva con Agua and Welthungerhilfe. You can download the Summary here or the full report below.

Cities Partnership Assessment

Assessment of implementation progress and performance of six cities in Sub-Saharan Africa that are developing and testing models to engage the private sector in delivery of equitable and sustainable city-level sanitation services.

New resource guide by WaterAid and Aguaconsult on selecting management models for piped water supply schemes.

Working with the world’s largest NGO for water and sanitation, Aguaconsult has researched and developed a new resource for selecting management models for piped water supply schemes.

In 2015 governments committed to Sustainable Development Goal 6.1: universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. But rural communities have traditionally suffered from lack of access to essential services such as water and sanitation, in comparison to urban populations. SDG 6 means closing that gap, but also improving the quality, and reliability of services. The ultimate goal – sustainable water in every household – can normally better be achieved via piped networks. Conventional management models have largely been based on voluntary Community-Based Management (CBM) relying on communities taking on the burden of maintenance themselves, with limited – if any – support from external agencies or local government. By and large this CBM model has struggled to ensure that rural water supply infrastructure is adequately managed and maintained, with ‘fix-on-failure’ becoming the default approach in far too many cases. There are increasing examples of other management options emerging, including the aggregation of a larger number of schemes under one umbrella contract, maintenance fees for a guaranteed service, and private or public utilities taking on responsibility for scheme management, together with incentives from governments in some cases.

This resource, written by Aguaconsult and WaterAid, has been developed primarily for WaterAid staff and partners to help in the selection of the most appropriate management models for piped water supply systems in rural and small-town contexts. The guide is also being made available as an external resource for other organisations, including national governments and development partners; a related set of decision-making posters will be released soon. By considering a range of contextual factors, including population densities, availability of skilled technicians and spare parts, commercial viability of markets, the degree of private sector participation and other issues, the resource walks the user through a number of decision-making steps – one of the most important principles is to align with, and support, government-sanctioned models or pilots and to ensure pro-poor inclusive services for all.
The resource can be downloaded below; for further information please contact Harold Lockwood

Effective WASH Approaches and Innovations in the Civil Society WASH Fund, Research Report

The Civil Society Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (CS WASH) Fund was a five-year programme supported by the Australian government with the objective of enhancing the health and quality of life of the poor and vulnerable by improving sustainable access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. Between 2013 and mid-2018, the Fund will have supported 13 Australian and international Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to deliver 29 WASH projects with an investment of AUD103million across 19 countries. The Fund is expected to provide direct benefits to 3.5 million people and indirect benefits to over 10 million people.

Toward the end of 2017 the CS WASH Fund commissioned a team from Aguaconsult to conduct in-depth research of CSO project experiences in cross-cutting areas of interest including: i. WASH policy influencing; ii. Gender and social inclusion (GESI); iii. WASH market facilitation; and iv. Innovation integration and uptake. The researchers worked with Fund administrators to prioritise the CSO interventions by focusing on those which have displayed promising approaches in these themes. Working together, they prioritised 23 CSO interventions, with 43 different unique interventions across the four themes.


Policy Brief - Financing the WASH sector

The Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative (CABRI) is an intergovernmental organisation that provides a platform for peer-learning for the development of functional approaches to reform initiatives, to strengthen public financial management (PFM) systems. In 2017, CABRI initiated a policy dialogue on ‘Value for Money in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene’ (WASH) through a series of dialogues and country reviews. Government officials from finance, health and WASH-related ministries, alongside technical experts from 12 African countries convened for the debut event in Accra. Those countries were: Botswana, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Côte D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and South Africa. CABRI held two follow-up peer review workshops, in Cape Town and Kigali, to further examine how countries are tackling WASH challenges. The events provided an opportunity for countries to share and learn about common WASH challenges in Africa and highlighted the complexity of managing a sector with multi-sectoral institutions and various financing options available. This policy brief covers what was learnt through the dialogue and reviews, and provides finance, health and WASH officials with key policy considerations for better targeted investments and financing approaches for faster progress towards national WASH objectives.

Engaging with the private sector for urban onsite sanitation services lessons from six Sub-Saharan African cities

The rapid pace of urbanization experienced across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) poses a challenge to local authorities, who often struggle to match the rate of expansion with adequate basic services. With regards to sanitation services, onsite technologies prevails – less than 10% of SSA’ population has access to a sewerage network. Despite this reliance on pit toilets and septic tanks, the engagement of local authorities in ensuring adequate services, such as emptying, transport and treatment of fecal sludge is limited. Cities are plagued by the absence of adequate infrastructure (from collection to treatment) and low political prioritization for onsite sanitation services, reflected in limited public resources allocation. Services are predominantly provided by the private sector, but often in the absence of regulations, with negative consequences on environment and services inclusion.

It is in this context that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), together with the UK Department for International Development launched the Partnership Cities Project, which aimed to support city authorities in developing onsite sanitation services. The Project supported a total of six grantees in SSA cities, including Accra, Blantyre, Dakar, Durban, Freetown and Kampala, in designing and implementing service delivery models for urban sanitation. All projects aimed to strengthen private sector participation in the delivery of services, including though Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs).

Lessons from this review indicate that projects succeeded in improving onsite sanitation services at city-level through the development of much needed infrastructure. In Accra, Dakar and Durban, the Project contributed to funding Fecal Sludge Treatment Plants (FSTPs), while public toilers were rehabilitated and constructed in Blantyre. In Accra and Dakar, where private operators were already in managing the FSTPs under PPP agreements, there was evidence of improved service levels with regards to treatment services provided to urban populations. Overall projects contributed to increase awareness of city authorities of urban sanitation needs and their capacity to develop appropriate solutions. In Kampala, the project supported Kampala City Council Authority in “bridging the gap” with private operators, through the development of licensing and FSM operations standards. Innovative approaches were also deployed in several cities, including the setting-up of a guarantee fund for facilitating access to finance for fecal sludge emptiers and call centers that increase competitiveness between truck operators.

Roadmap to Improved Enabling Environment

Establishing a roadmap to an improved enabling environment for local water and sanitation service providers in Vietnam

A4C Roadmap for Universal Access

This document aims to provide an overview for how the principles and practice of Agenda for Change (A4C) can be applied at district level, following a generic (e.g. non-country specific) roadmap.

It aims to:
1. Elaborate on the principles of A4C, at different institutional levels: global, national and district;
2. Provide an overview of the main steps of the roadmap at district level and its linkages with wider sector strengthening activities; and
3. Provide links to associated tools and resources for each step

Global Study on Rural Water Service Delivery

In a bid to identify how governments can be supported to ensure more sustainable services, the World Bank's Water Global Practice, which made rural water supply services a key challenge area, commissioned Aguaconsult to conduct a 16-country study, with the objective of developing and applying a simple framework to assess the sustainability of rural water supply. The study was conducted in association with IRC and the framework was used to identify good practices and challenges faced by a range of countries.

Although global figures on functionality and sustainability of rural water systems and services are difficult to pin down, the reality of broken hand pumps or ill-maintained small piped water systems is all too well documented. The durability and reliability of water services has long been of concern to the sector, for both national governments and development partners alike.

Building on the Triple-S initiative,  the framework identifies five main building blocks of rural water sustainability: institutional capacity, financing, asset management, water resource management and monitoring and regulation. These building blocks represent the optimum conditions for sustainability of service provision and should, ideally, be in place at all three levels of rural water supply governance, namely national level, service authority level (normally, but not always, local, district or municipal government) and service provider level.

Based on documentation review and in-country visits, the framework was applied to assess progress towards sustainability in the 16 selected countries. Overall, the assessment found that institutional capacity has advanced furthest, as countries have made progress in identifying institutional responsibilities and corresponding policies for rural water supply. How to translate these policies into practice, at local levels remains a challenge, however, as local governments still lack the tools, and sometimes incentives, to ensure inclusive rural water services. Asset management practices (starting with assets inventories) remains to be implemented in most countries. Similarly, water resource management has yet to be taken into account in the implementation of rural water services (except in water-stressed countries, as in Morocco). Sound financing strategies were found where governments have developed sub-sector investment plans, based on a bottom-up assessment of investment needs and sub-sequent prioritization, as in Vietnam and Morocco. However, across most the 16 countries, the financial sustainability of services remains fragile: in many context, tariffs remain to systematically applied, and when they are levied, they rarely cover the actual costs of delivering sustainable services and an adequate allocation of financing responsibilities between the service provider and the service authority is often lacking. Finally, the assessment found several country monitoring frameworks in place or in development (as in as China, Morocco, India, Philippines, Nicaragua, Tanzania and Ethiopia). Challenges persist in the pro-active use of monitoring outputs to take remedial actions, improve performance and inform programming.

The full account of this assessment, with practical recommendations to policy-makers for improving the sustainability of rural water supply, is now available to download below. A short policy briefing note based on the study can be found here. For questions or comments on this report please contact Harold or Goufrane.


Big Gains from Small Funds: Experiences from WaterAid Ethiopia's 20-Town Capacity Development Programme

Ethiopia has steadily increased the proportion of urban residents with access to improved water in recent years. This is particularly impressive considering the rapid population growth and high rate of rural-urban migration taking place in the country. However, despite these laudable achievements, there are still widespread challenges affecting the sustainable delivery of WASH services in Ethiopia's towns. With over 980 towns across the country, government units mandated to support the individual town water utilities are often overstretched. The utilities have weak internal systems and processes, with inefficiencies in their operations undermining their ability to be financially sustainable, or to provide an adequate quality service to their customers. An example of such inefficiency of management is that in 2015 the sector average for utility non-revenue water stood at 39%. In non-technical terms, more than a third of the already meagre drinkable water that the utilities produce is lost before it gets to their customers.

The problems persist despite the government's best intentions because capacity in the water utilities is often low, and infrastructural investment projects in the towns often neglect meaningful capacity development components. Capacity strengthening initiatives are often restricted to one-off training for individual staff members. These can be of limited effectiveness, as the skills are lost when the trained staff moves on. Training's often lack follow-up mentoring or monitoring, and trainees face challenges to implement their new skills due to a lack of resources in the utility, or a lack of commitment in the utility or town administration to implement new approaches.

To help deal with this problem, WaterAid Ethiopia has been implementing a Yorkshire Water (UK)-funded capacity development project in twenty towns across the country since 2014, and it is due to run until 2019. These towns were selected because they had previously received infrastructure investment from the Government or development partners, but such investments did not include capacity strengthening components. WaterAid's Twenty Town project takes a holistic, sustained, systems building approach to capacity development. Training is accompanied with the provision of manuals and where necessary equipment. Trainees are required to develop post-training action plans, the implementation of which are reviewed during bi-annual monitoring and mentoring visits to each town. Micro-grants are provided to the towns to undertake post-training initiatives such as customer mobilisation, and there is a strong focus on strengthening not only personal skills, but also the water utilities' internal processes and systems.

Overall, the capacity development project has made impressive gains in strengthening the efficiency, effectiveness, accountability and sustainability of WASH services in the towns. Infrastructural investments in the 20 towns are of the of GBP 45m, whilst the total WAE capacity development project budget is just GBP 1m. The lessons we learned are that relatively minor investments in capacity development add considerable value to the much large investments being made by others in infrastructure. Moreover, it is important to note that the impacts of the project extend well beyond the twenty towns. Well performing project towns have become 'model towns', which other towns in the regions visit to learn from. For example, Debre Tabor, one of the best performing of the twenty towns, has already hosted (self-funded) learning visits from over 160 towns.

This learning note provides an overview of the capacity development, its key achievements, and lessons learned to date and it also captures and presents specific and targeted recommendations.

Community Water and Sanitation Agency Organisational Assessment: Final Report

In late 2016 Aguaconsult was commissioned to lead an organizational assessment of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) in Ghana together with legal and technical experts and working closely with Agency staff and other stakeholders, including the newly reformed Ministry for Sanitation and Water and the regulatory commission.

Over the last two decades, CWSA has become synonymous with the concept of community management as the principal approach to delivery of rural water services and has refined this through the Community Ownership and Management model which it has promoted nationally. With national economic growth and the changing nature of the rural areas in Ghana, expansion of large piped networks and small-town piped schemes, a model based on voluntary committees is no longer adequate to meet expectations and demands for a more professionalised and higher quality of service.

Based on the assessment of the current CWSA and on the operating environment, a number of different forward-looking scenarios were identified and refined. These scenarios need to be considered alongside the broader sector development planning to improve both access and to drive up service quality. Other sector actors will undoubtedly play a role in the future of rural water provision, but regardless of the future reform of CWSA, a number of vital functions in the value chain for rural water need to be strengthened; these include:

• Professionalizing the management of water supply schemes, especially for Small Towns and larger piped networks, moving away from purely voluntary approaches;
• Introducing and building strong regimes for asset management and maintenance;
• Providing better access to financing on affordable terms for both asset holders and operators to (re)-invest in schemes, along with the generation of surplus income from tariffs;
• Extending regulation to rural areas, with a particular focus on water quality.

The three scenarios that were developed and agreed upon for presentation to the CWSA Board and subsequently to the Ministry for Sanitation and Water for taking a final decision and triggering the organisational and legal changes necessary. For further information on this process please contact Harold Lockwood.