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The 5 Principles of Sustainable WASH

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SDG Goal 6 aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. To achieve it, it is important to consider how to move from humanitarian to sustainable WASH solutions. Below are the five key principles of sustainable WASH; 

  • Technical sustainability

Technical sustainability refers to the use of localized technology. When local people maintain, repair, and replace the technology or hardware required for the services to continue operating while not diminishing the (natural) resources on which it depends for its operation, WASH services are considered to be technically sustainable.

In order to adapt to consumer and investor expectations, possibilities, and ideas, local suppliers must increase their production, building, and maintenance capabilities as well as their capacity to work with key stakeholders to make educated technology decisions. It is crucial to:

  • Adapt the WASH technologies to the context in which they are being used in order to use locally suitable, high-quality, context-specific, inexpensive, durable, and demand-driven technologies.
  • Modify the context to account for the technology required to provide WASH services.

  • Institutional sustainability

In the WASH sector, institutional sustainability means that WASH systems, institutions, policies, and procedures are operational and satisfy local WASH service users’ needs. Authorities and service providers at the local and national levels, households, and other WASH service users are transparent with one another and are aware of their respective duties, responsibilities, and capabilities. A multi-stakeholder strategy is used by WASH stakeholders to collaborate along the WASH chain.

It is accomplished by promoting an integrated approach to the WASH sector, which entails organizing the community around their right to WASH, outlining the roles and responsibilities of all WASH actors, and facilitating multi-stakeholder platforms. It also entails strengthening the sector(s)’ capacity for better delivery, lobbying and advocating for better policies, and mobilizing government budgets.

  • Social sustainability

In order for both the present and future society to be able to build healthy and living communities, it is important to make sure that the necessary social circumstances and prerequisites are achieved and maintained. This is what social sustainability refers to. Demand-driven, inclusive (equitable), gender-neutral, culturally sensitive, and needs-based interventions are the hallmarks of social sustainability. It is achieved when interventions are based on: 

  • True demand: WASH services will only be integrated into society if there is a real need for the services, leading to a sense of ownership.
  • Full inclusion of all societal groups; this will guarantee that all groups gain from and advance in development.
  • Local and cultural sensitivity: The local community is more likely to understand and adopt WASH services and methods that are in line with local and cultural practices and behaviors.
  • Urgent needs: concentrate on resolving WASH issues in cultures, groups, and geographic regions where there is a disproportionately larger need than elsewhere.
  • Environmental sustainability

The management of water and sanitation resources for both the present and future generations is ensured by environmental sustainability. The element of environmental sustainability entails managing water and wastewater flows and resources in an integrated and sustainable manner, as well as placing WASH interventions in the broader context of the natural environment. WASH programs interact with and have an impact on the environment, which in turn affects how people live.

When seen from the standpoint of environmental sustainability, WASH strategies and interventions relate to the natural environment (ecosystems and natural resources) and how the condition of the natural environment influences the availability and quality of WASH services. 

  • Financial sustainability

Because the activities are locally financed (e.g., through taxes, local fees, and local financing) and independent of external (foreign) subsidies, financial sustainability refers to the assurance of continuity in the delivery of goods and services related to water, sanitation, and hygiene. Below are the three methods for introducing models that provide incentives for different stakeholders to support the financing of WASH improvements:

  • Local financing comes first: Customers, the public sector, or private investors provide as much local funding as feasible to pay investment expenditures. Interesting sources of funding include household contributions, ongoing tax receipts, fee structures, and loans from regional financial institutions. WASH system operating and maintenance expenses are always covered by local financial instruments.
  • Rights-based approach: Communities are empowered to communicate their needs and demands to their local, regional, and national authorities for proper budget allocation and use through local lobbying, advocacy, and budget tracking.
  • Investment loans: By appropriately handling water and sanitation in a locally regulated WASH sector, small local enterprises are given the opportunity to expand.

To learn how the sustainability principles relate to the results framework, register for our Water, Sanitation & Hygiene course today!


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