Developing Reliable, Affordable and Safely Managed Water Services 

The Challenge and Context: Demonstrating Sustainable and Safe Water Services at Scale Matters

A map of Africa that highlights where the Safe Water program is active in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Ghana

Safe water is a crucial component for development and prosperity—driving health, social, and economic outcomes for everyone, including those living in underinvested communities. However, in too many parts of the world, the management and financing of water systems is so broken that family homes, schools, and even health care facilities go without safe water. The health, education and economic consequences are dire. Data gaps, inadequate models for sustainable water delivery and unclear water governance result in an unnecessary lack of safe water services at scale across households, schools and health care facilities putting health, education, well-being, and economic growth at risk.

In some parts of the world, current prioritized interventions may directly conflict with addressing the root causes of water-service failures. Equally challenging, an overdependence on donor government support perpetuates the boom-and-bust cycles of development rather than creating enduring delivery models for safe water services. There are also far too many one-size-fits-all approaches, which pose the risk of delivering water services that are not valuable to communities and safe at the point of use.

Delivering safe water requires us to strengthen systems and develop professionalized service delivery solutions. To that end, we are working with communities, civil society, donors, local and national governments, and private sector partners in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Uganda to create solutions that will sustain quality services for one million people in low-income households, health facilities, and schools in sub-Saharan Africa by 2025.

What We Do: Address Systems, Build Sustainable Local Capacity, and Advance Beyond Infrastructure

Our systems-led approach is guided by achieving the most significant impact and enabling local sustainability. Four values guide our work: evidence to support decision-making; sustainability to address the root causes of service delivery; accountability among stakeholders for successes and challenges; and innovation in testing, delivery, business, and financial models.

Our Current Focus

  • Ensure residents have safe water access
  • Narrow gaps for people living with unequal opportunity
  • Identify solutions for global replication

The Safe Water effort is multifaceted and requires capacity building and an equity focus to narrow gaps between those living in disadvantage and others. The work also demands an honest examination of the systemic issues beyond the infrastructure itself to those inputs that create and allow for the continuation of subpar services. We believe progress is truly achievable when health, water, government, civil society, and the private sector collaborate to improve lives in meaningful ways.

Ultimately, our approach:

  • Helps connect and strengthen local, national, and regional efforts to provide reliable, safe water services for health facilities, schools, and marginalized communities
  • Focuses on issues beyond infrastructure, addressing the systemic challenges and root causes of subpar services.
  • Partners with others to develop and test models that provide safe water services with great value and potential to scale
  • Brings together equity-focused funders to collaborate on replicating solutions for those with the greatest needs
  • Advocates for the shared dividends that come from safely managed water

The Impact of the Work: Reliable, Affordable, and Safe Water Services for Every Person, Health Facility, and School Globally

Through investment at the local level, support from the regional and national levels, and the establishment of robust partnerships within the region, the opportunity to expand safely managed water in homes, schools, and health facilities is reasonable. We can help achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6: Universal access to safe water by 2030). 

When we invest in local authorities to improve water service delivery at the district level and support national and regional plans to make safe water delivery standardized, we get one step closer to universal access to safe water for all. 

Meet the Safe Water Team