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The Evolving Global Perspective on WASH

In late August, Water Mission participated in the 2017 Stockholm World Water Week. This international conference is the annual premier venue for water professionals from government, academia, and civil society to network, exchange ideas, and develop solutions to the world’s most pressing water-related challenges. In collaboration with our strategic partner, the Poul Due Jensen Foundation, we were blessed with the opportunity to connect with like-minded organizations and learn from the experiences of others.

Water Mission staff presenting at SIWI World Water Week
Water Mission staff presenting at SIWI World Water Week

Our primary areas of focus at this year’s World Water Week were financial sustainability, solar pumping, remote monitoring, and strategic partnerships. These converged in a showcase event that Water Mission co-hosted entitled “Water Pricing: Finding the right price in developing countries.” We demonstrated our simple yet effective approach to helping community-based water committees understand the costs associated with managing their water services and how to establish affordable user fees to cover those costs. During the event, attendees participated in a mock water committee training session on financial sustainability. Role-play scenarios highlighted how Water Mission and communities work together to increase safe water demand, water revenue, and the likelihood of long-term financial sustainability. A summary of the event content can be downloaded here. For more about Water Mission’s participation in the conference or to access the materials we presented, visit http://watermission.org/worldwaterweek/.

Water Mission staff presenting at SIWI World Water Week

For Water Mission, the most profound trend that was highlighted at World Water Week is the manner in which the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly goal 6 which focuses on water and sanitation, have changed the frame of reference for the global WASH community. Five years ago, when people talked about “water access” from a global perspective, they were likely thinking about a water point that provides a minimally acceptable volume of water and that can be reached within 30 minutes of walking and queuing. Today, the common ideal of appropriate access, even in rural areas, includes water that is treated and piped into or at least very close to people’s homes. Five years ago, when people talked about sustainability of water services, they were likely thinking about whether or not a water point was functional. Today, as highlighted in this session, the conversation is focused on service level (quantity, quality, accessibility, and reliability), institutional and management capacity, financial performance, and environmental impact.

The Water Mission team setting up at SIWI World Water Week

George Greene, PE speaks with an interested SIWI attendant at World Water Week.

As we have written about in the past, this perspective shift has aligned global priorities with Water Mission’s core strengths in mechanized pumping (particularly solar pumping), water treatment, and sustainable management and finance. While it is certainly encouraging that our approach is “ahead of the curve”, we are hoping to take strategic advantage of our position in order to scale the impact of our programs. From our founding, we have sought to position ourselves in a manner that would enable us to utilize our strengths to support other WASH-focused entities in their work. As we incubate best practices and establish standards of excellence, we, in turn, seek to disseminate those practices and build the capacity of our partners to be able to adhere to them. In light of the SDGs, we are finding that many doors are being opened for us to partner with and be a resource to other organizations.

Read more about Water Mission’s research into solar pumping, WASH management, remote monitoring, and more.

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