Conrad N. Hilton Foundation - Safe Water Initiative Review

In late 2022 the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation commissioned Aguaconsult to conduct a portfolio review of their Safe Water Initiative being implemented in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Uganda by a wide range of partners. This review has taken almost one year to conduct and is in the process of being finalized with a series of in-country dissemination events scheduled for the first quarter of 2024.


The Safe Water Initiative (SWI), using the district as a unit of scale, focuses on system-strengthening and service delivery to ensure reliable, affordable, and safely managed water to 1 million people in low-income households, health facilities, and schools. It runs from 2021 to 2025 with a budget of USD 88 million. As part of its five-year strategic plan for the SWI the foundation commissioned Aguaconsult to undertake a review of its investments and approaches in its target geographies of Ethiopia, Ghana, and Uganda. The review is an opportunity to analyze the Foundation’s investments in service delivery models to date, including how these align with the broader context of rural water provision and funding trends.


The primary aim of the review is to investigate the relevance, effectiveness, and sustainability of different service delivery models used by the SWI, including community-based safe water management and self-supply in Ethiopia, Government provision of safe water through publicly owned water utilities in Uganda, and predominantly private-sector approaches (such as the safe water enterprises) in Ghana. The review seeks to answer three strategic questions:


  1. Have CNHF investments been relevant to the challenges of delivering rural water services in the target districts and countries?
  2. To what extent are SDMs supported by the Foundation delivering safe water services? and


As part of this portfolio review the Aguaconsult team conducted a landscaping of global trends in rural water service provision, as well as assessing the sectors in the three focus countries and future policy trajectories. This external trends review document is available here. Detailed results of the review in all three countries will be made available in early 2024.

ESAWAS urban and rural WSS regulation in 54 African countries

A well-functioning regulatory system is a key driver in delivering safe, equitable and reliable water supply and sanitation (WSS) services. However, there is limited up-to-date reference material on the different regulatory setups across Africa. This lack of information limits the understanding of common challenges and trends as well as the determination of good practices to serve as models for replication in countries looking to improve WSS regulation or institute necessary reforms.

Within this context, Aguaconsult (in partnership with Athena Infonomics and Emanti Management) recently led a large landscaping study for the Eastern and Southern African Water and Sanitation (ESAWAS) Regulators Association, detailing the status of urban and rural WSS regulation in 54 African countries. The continent-wide and regional (Northern, Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern) reports present a wide range of country-specific information on the status of WSS regulation on a region-by-region and continent-wide basis along with a series of good practice and illustrative case studies. Key topics and findings detailed include:

An online webinar also provide an overview of the current status of WSS regulation across Africa. – Meta-Study on Existing Water Supply and Sanitation Research is a global non-profit organisation addressing critical water supply and sanitation challenges by helping households to access water supply and sanitation services through affordable financing such as small loans. Over the last decade, has developed a comprehensive internal evidence-base through programme monitoring, evaluations, and individual research studies. Aguaconsult recently collaborated with IWEL to undertake a meta-study of’s internal evidence-base across five thematic areas: (i) household finances, (ii) women’s empowerment and equity, (iii) health and safety, (iv) climate change, and (v) WaterCredit as an accelerator.

Findings from this process were tallied against those from wider WASH sector literature and used to determine areas where programs have the greatest impact and map the improvements required to’s monitoring and evaluations. Ultimately, the findings and recommendations from this study are now being used by to inform the development of their next global strategy, to refine its internal monitoring and evaluation efforts, and improve programming.

Please contact Bill Twyman for more information on this project.

Data in Water and Sanitation: Bridging the Gap Between ‘Technically Brilliant’ and Real-World Decision-Making

We have access to greater and greater volumes of data as never before, and new tools, devices and platforms are being developed all the time. The WASH sector is no different, with data initiatives being launched across many countries at different scales. In part as response to the proliferation of such data initiatives, the Osprey Foundation and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation funded a study to assess how such tools – and the data generated by them – have impacted on decision-making in the sector.

The study was led by Aguaconsult working together with IRC of the Netherlands and looked at the application of several different data tools and platforms in four countries, including Colombia, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Uganda. Although the choice of data initiatives was not exhaustive and involved only a limited set of experiences, a number of interesting insights were gained, including the following:

The findings point to the need for data initiatives to not only present smart offerings – the supply side – but to make more effort to understand the ‘demand-side’ of data use: who will ultimately use the data in decision-making? what capacities and resources do they have at their disposal? When do they need the data and in what formats?

Beyond highlighting the need to better understand the data-to-decision-making pathway, the findings stress the importance of addressing the entire data eco-system. This cannot be done in isolation, rather it should consider long-term systemic support and commitment to capacity building.

For further information on this project contact Julia Boulenouar.

WaterAid – An Assessment of Management Arrangements for Water Supply an Onsite Sanitation Services across Southern Africa

High non-functionality and slippage rates are critical factors impeding progress towards universal access to water supply and sanitation services by 2030, especially in rural and small-town contexts. In many cases, the reliance on weak or un-professionalised management arrangements based on unsupported community- or household-based management is a central factor in service levels deteriorating. However, in many countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, more professionalised management arrangements for water supply and sanitation services have been developed, often providing users with better services and helping to address key sustainability challenges.

Within this context, WaterAid commissioned Aguaconsult to research management arrangements for water supply and onsite sanitation services in rural and small-town contexts across six Southern African countries: Eswatini, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zambia. This study provided a typology of the different management arrangements in place and enabled the determination of best practices and recommendations across several areas, including monitoring and regulation, financing, maintenance and repairs, and asset ownership. The study’s results are now principally being used by WaterAid policy teams across Southern Africa to advocate for a variety of measures to strengthen management arrangements.

Supporting enterprises in capturing waste value: lessons learned from the CapVal sanitation project in Ghana

This learning report looks at the outcomes of the CapVal project implemented by IWMI in Ghana. In the last decade, IWMI has pioneered research on sustainable business models for waste valorisation. Building on this experience, IWMI Ghana, in partnership with TREND, provided technical support and financial assistance to local entrepreneurs, local governments and the national government on waste valorisation for the production of faecal sludge-based compost, fuel briquettes and catfish (through wastewater reuse). CapVal, which was implemented with support from the Dutch Embassy in Ghana from 2015-2021, particularly focused on supporting the development of local SMEs, including Jekora Venture and TriMark.


In line with other similar global experience, this learning report found these businesses could not be profitable without public funding support to cover capital costs but also marketing and outreach to off-takers. The compost business in particular is a struggling one, in the context of government subsidies for large scale production of fertilisers. The briquettes and catfish production showed stronger potential for interesting profit margins. However, despite challenges in relation to profitability, CapVal paved the way in identifying solutions for strengthening the circular economy of waste management. In particular, CapVal helped set-up:


Challenges related to waste valorisation remain significant: for example, where environmental regulations enforcement is weak, there is no guarantee that sufficient sludge will be deposited at the designated site. Businesses that were developed as part of CapVal are still far from full market-based profitability due to market barriers, such as heavy competition from chemical fertiliser (that remain subsidised). However, as governments and businesses look for sustainable sources of energy, soil nutrient and water for fish production, IWMI and partners’ work is increasingly relevant, helping to gradually unlock opportunities of waste valorisation and the circular economy.

LESSONS FROM COVID-19 The Resilience of Innovative Sanitation and Hygiene Ventures

A knowledge brief outlining the lessons that were learnt by sanitation and hygiene innovators from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and how this can inform efforts to increase their resilience to climate change. This short paper investigates the effects of this on 11 sanitation and hygiene ventures supported by Grand Challenges Canada in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Climate Resilient Urban Sanitation Accelerating the Convergence of Sanitation and Climate Action

A study focused on the interlinkages between climate change and urban sanitation systems and their critical role in urban resilience. This report has been commissioned by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, in collaboration with Resilient Cities Network (R-Cities) and aims to raise the visibility of urban sanitation in the international climate change discourse and to highlight its importance on urban resilience. It does so by collating and reflecting on existing knowledge, as well as highlighting how some cities have approached adaptation. It intends to engage with and propose to a diverse set of sector leaders an outline of the next steps required to assist cities in building the climate resilience of their sanitation services and infrastructure.

AMCOW Sanitation policy guidelines

There is a growing awareness that one of the critical constraints to scaling up WASH service delivery is the lack of clear WASH policies. The sustainability and effectiveness of WASH services are not only determined by the extent and the state of infrastructure and services but also by multidimensional institutional, governance, and financial management systems. This enabling environment is receiving increasing attention across Africa. Aguaconsult was part of the development of The African Sanitation Policy Guidelines, an AMCOW response to multiple requests for policy development assistance from member countries of the African Union. It provides guidance that can be applied and adapted at the country level for reviewing, revising, and enhancing existing sanitation policies.  AMCOW Sanitation Policy Guidelines

Agenda for Change - District level roadmap for universal access to sustainable sanitation services

Access to sustainable sanitation services requires strategic planning to identify intended outcomes results, as well as major steps required to achieve them. Yet, such a strategy can only be meaningful if it is based on a systematic understanding of suitable sanitation technologies and their related costs. Developing and implementing such a plan should take a flexible approach that employs various tools to assess costs and carry out inventories resulting in better investment decisions and national-level policy changes. Aguaconsult and Water for people, both members of Agenda for Change, produced the new district level roadmap for universal access to sustainable sanitation services presenting the step-by-step process of developing a WASH district roadmap focusing on sanitation service delivery.

WaterWorX Mid-Term Review

Conducted in association with IRC, this mid-term evaluation looked at the performance of 20 Water Operator Partnerships worldwide. These WOPs were designed and implemented as part the WaterWorX programme, a unique partnership between Dutch utilities and the ministry of foreign affairs. WOPs under the programme combine technical assistance for utility performance improvements (e.g. NRW reduction, energy efficiency, water quality improvements) and access to repayable finance, small investments in water services improvements as well as support for addressing climate change risks.

WHH Malawi – Mid-Term Evaluation of a WASH Systems Strengthening Project

Welthungerhilfe Malawi has been implementing a WASH system strengthening project in Dedza District, Malawi, since August 2019. This project represents a considerable shift in Welthungerhilfe Malawi’s WASH programming, seeing them reorientate from focusing on infrastructure construction and behaviour change to addressing key systemic challenges such as inadequate planning, limited performance of maintenance and repairs, weak supply chains, and limited coordination between stakeholders. The project has proved effective in improving reducing sustainability challenges, with non-functionality rates across Dedza District dropping notably.

Aguaconsult collaborated with BAWI Consult to conduct a mid-term evaluation of this project. The findings were largely positive, with the project performing well against a series of OECD-DAC criteria. Nevertheless, several detailed and practical recommendations were formulated to further improve Welthungerhilfe Malawi’s systems strengthening work, and Aguaconsult travelled to Malawi in November 2021 to support the implementation of these.

For more information on this project and Aguaconsult’s work with Welthungerhilfe, please contact Bill Twyman.

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).

Sanitation Learning Hub - Improving rural sanitation in challenging contexts

The factors affecting the efficient and effective use of sanitation technologies are highly diverse and applying one-size fits all approaches has been proven not to work. Aguaconsult collaborated with Bluechain Consulting to carry out desk-based research on 'Improving Rural Sanitation in Challenging Contexts' on behalf of the  Sanitation Learning Hub at IDS, UNICEF and WaterAid.  The research recommendations amongst others, include building the evidence base to identify who the ‘last mile’ is, quantify these groups and understand the barriers they face.

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.

Agence Française de Développement - Global assessment of national public development banks’ involvement in the water sector

Aguaconsult’s public finance specialist, Goufrane Mansour, worked as part of a team to draft this report, commissioned by the Agence Française de Développement, presenting a global assessment of national public development banks’(PDBs) involvement in the water sector. Historically, national PDBs have played a significant role in water sector development in high-income countries such as France, Italy and the Netherlands, but this model has not yet reached its full potential in lower income countries.

This research assessed the nature and extent of PDB involvement in financing water-related investments, and the drivers and constraints for PDB involvement in the water sector. The report also defines recommendations for enhancing PDBs’ role in water-related investments for the global south. Access the report and contact Goufrane for further details.

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.