Five myths preventing increased access to urban water and sanitation

Themes: Behaviour change Community management Sanitation Utilities
Countries: Bangladesh Bangladesh-local Ghana Ghana-local Kenya Kenya-local Madagascar Mozambique Zambia Zambia-local

Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) has identified five myths which are stopping investors, agencies and policymakers from properly addressing the inadequate access to essential water and sanitation services in cities across Africa and South Asia.

The five myths are published in a new report, Running Dry: Tackling the myths about urban water and sanitation.

As urbanisation continues to gather pace, it is vital that these myths are debunked:

Myth one: Struggling utilities are unable to serve the poorest

Myth two: Water should be free

Myth three: Communities should be responsible for their own services

Myth four: We should only focus on household facilities

Myth five: Building toilets alone will solve the sanitation crisis

“Authorities in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia are extending utility services as fast as they can, but because of the rate of urbanisation, we are barely making progress towards universal water and sanitation access,” said Neil Jeffery, CEO, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor.

“Overcoming the five myths identified by WSUP in Running Dry will help cities to deliver better services to marginalised urban citizens, so that more people can participate in the economic advantages of urbanisation.”

“It is not a lost cause – but we need to act now to develop services that are citywide, affordable, and meet the needs of all residents.”

Read Running Dry now.

The issue of clean water and safe sanitation in urban areas is integral to the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 6 – “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”, and Goal 11 – “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” At present, the world is not on track to meet these goals.

But it is not a lost cause. More can be done to recognise approaches that are working, and to focus efforts on responses that can be scaled up right across urban areas. By overcoming the five myths identified in this policy brief, clean, readily available and affordable water and safe, dignified sanitation can be extended to all citizens living in urban areas.


For more information contact:

Steve Metcalfe, Head of Partnerships & Communications, +44 20 7822 1867 /
Donna Bowater, Marchmont Communications, +44 7929 212 534 /

About Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor

Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) is a not-for-profit company that helps transform cities to benefit the millions who lack access to water and sanitation. We were created in 2005 as a response to the unprecedented urban explosion that has left cities unable to provide basic services, such as access to a toilet or drinking water, to low-income communities. We work in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, supported by an office in the UK. Since inception we have helped nearly 20 million people access better water, sanitation and hygiene services.