What we do

Changing lives

“WSUP’s work is enhancing the lives of men, women and children every day in practical ways that directly improve their quality of life.”

One cannot overestimate the life-changing impact access to reliable, clean and affordable running water can have on individuals. It means consumers do not have to walk miles to fetch water for their families or pay over the odds. It means they don’t have to bathe or wash their clothes in dirty river water.

It also means the most vulnerable are recognised as citizens of their community with a right to local services charged at a fair price.

The transformative effect of a safe, clean, private toilet is equally powerful. Relieving yourself doesn’t require a dangerous trip to a disgusting latrine several times a day, but affords you the dignity, privacy and safety we all deserve and value.

This is especially transformative for women and girls, who need to manage their periods, and for whom trips to shared latrines can be fraught with danger.

WSUP’s work is enhancing the lives of men, women and children every day in practical ways that directly improve their quality of life.

Changing systems

“At WSUP, we recognise that water doesn’t just come out of a tap, it flows from a functioning system.”

At WSUP, we recognise that water doesn’t just come out of a tap, it flows from a  functioning system – not just made up of boreholes and pipes, but of the people, institutions, regulators, businesses, and politicians who manage it.

International development is littered with examples of short-term water projects which cease to function after a couple of years; at WSUP, we are determined to create sustainable, systemic change which creates lasting value for low-income urban residents.

The key to achieving lasting sustainability is ensuring systems and services are financially viable. Enormous strides can be made by incorporating business thinking into public service provision, and by recognising low-income people as citizens and consumers, who have the right to receive services from their governments and to make choices about how their needs are met.

Sometimes this is best achieved by bringing the private sector into the urban WASH space, and sometimes by helping the mandated utilities to develop viable commercial services for low-income customers. In Kenya, Bangladesh and Ghana, for example, we have supported the local utilities to develop dedicated customer service units to better meet the needs of their low-income customers.

In all our projects, we work alongside local providers, enabling them to develop services, build infrastructure and attract funding so they can reach low-income communities. We also work closely with the communities themselves, to understand and relay their needs and concerns.

Political commitment and institutional change are equally critical and political leaders need to prioritise WASH investment and policy change. WSUP now advises international financial institutions and our utility and city partners on how best to mobilise investment and target low-income urban residents, resulting in more than US$643 million of finance being raised.

Changing approaches

“We are able to improve water and sanitation services for the urban poor well beyond our own direct projects.”

WSUP isn’t an enormous organisation, but we are able to improve water and sanitation services for the urban poor well beyond our own direct projects. We achieve this by piloting and proving effective new approaches and regulatory changes which are then taken up and replicated by others working in the sector.

One recent example is in Kenya, where WSUP has piloted the installation of a simplified sewer network in two neighbourhoods, Nakuru and Makuru. You can read more about this project here. The pilot proved to be so successful in terms of value for money, customer satisfaction, and wider environmental benefits that, as a result, the African Development Bank pledged to install 35km of such sewers in Kenya.

In Madagascar, WSUP piloted the use of community water kiosks to bring affordable, safe water to low-income households back in 2008. This proved to be an effective way to enable poorer communities to get a water connection from the national utility, without which they were forced to buy expensive water from private sellers. The initial pilot of just five local water kiosks, built by WSUP, operated by community water user associations, and granted a reduced-price ‘social tariff’ which WSUP negotiated with the utility, has proven to be a great success. Today, hundreds of such kiosks exist in the capital alone, creating jobs and cleaner communities, while bringing cheap, clean water conveniently close to hundreds of thousands of people.

Whether it’s sewers, water kiosks, sanitation blocks, or writing policies around regulating pit-emptying businesses, WSUP is committed to sharing the lessons we learn for the benefit of others. We have a reputation among water and sanitation experts for developing practical solutions which work for utilities, governments and low-income communities. We have published over 170 research publications and insights already, all of which are available on this website in our WASH Experts area.