Policy Brief.2020

Paving the way for pro-poor and sustainable WASH: The role of local innovation

Innovative service delivery solutions are needed to close existing gaps in access to services, reduce inequalities, and ultimately ensure Safely Managed Drinking Water and Sanitation for All. This policy brief discusses the challenges of adopting innovative solutions in service delivery, and provides recommendations for policymakers, corporate managers, and researchers on what is needed to close the urban WASH service gap.

Photo: David NilssonPhoto: David Nilsson

Although billions of people worldwide have gained access to basic drinking water and sanitation during the last two decades, data suggests that ‘leaving no one behind’ by 2030 would require doubling the current annual rate of progress sanitation and hygiene targets within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ricard Giné and Alejandro Jiménez, SIWI, David Nilsson, KTH, and Pär Blomkvist, MDH have co-authored this publication based on the conclusions from the research project “The role of Local Innovation for a Transformative Shift towards sustainable water and sanitation in African cities”. The project was aimed at understanding how the large systems for urban water and sanitation change in sub-Saharan Africa contexts, and in particular, how local innovation can contribute to system-level change.

In peri-urban areas, the increasing number of unconnected customers poses additional challenges. Business-as-usual will not address the problems of low coverage, inadequate service levels and poor sustainability of water and sanitation systems. A combination of new technologies with innovative models of service delivery will be needed to close the existing gaps and reduce inequalities. In particular, service providers will need to simultaneously adopt new, informal solutions for unconnected users and more traditional, formal mechanisms to connect more users to the centralized piped infrastructure, through an ambidextrous strategy.

This policy brief has been a collaboration between SIWI and KTH, The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.