Our work: on the ground

We work with communities and our local partners to make clean waterdecent sanitation and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere.

With our local partners, we work with communities to deliver low-cost, sustainable solutions that meet their needs.

We also work with local and national governments in the countries where we operate, developing solutions to help them provide water, sanitation and hygiene to everyone.

And we work on an even bigger scale, too. We campaign worldwide, showing governments and key decision-makers that investing in these basic services will have incredible positive impacts.

Many people live in countries where the national economy is too poor to create water and toilet infrastructure at the scale they need. Construction can also be difficult in many places because of extreme geography – such as deserts, mountains and jungles – and because there are not enough trained experts who know how to find long-term solutions.

Governments may let water and sanitation facilities get left behind while focusing on other priorities, like industry, roads, schools and hospitals.

Vulnerable people in society are affected most by this lack of water and sanitation. Those living in hard-to-reach areas can be forgotten entirely, people living in poverty can be priced out, and marginalised groups can be denied access to these facilities. We work closely with these communities to help them defend their rights and gain access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

Many people do; hand-dug wells are often the most common way people in developing countries get their water. Going to the toilet in a hole or outside in an area away from people is also common.

But both of these solutions are unsafe, directly leading to the spread of deadly diseases. Wells that aren’t dug correctly can be extremely dangerous to people’s health, and human waste in the open can spread disease and contaminate the water table.

Constructing safe, sustainable water and sanitation systems requires more specialist knowledge than communities may have, so our local partners work with them to build simple, effective long-term solutions, and share the skills to maintain them.

Read more about the technologies we use

Open sources of water are rarely safe. When open to nature they can be contaminated with household and industrial waste, animal faeces, parasites, and waterborne diseases like cholera.

They are also unreliable, prone to drying up or running out. This means people often need to find a new source, which could be many miles away. A community cannot move every time this happens.

Land ownership is also an issue for most people; communities living in poverty often don't have the money to simply move to new locations.

A safer, longer-term solution is to create a water facility that is local, using water that needs only minimal filtering – such as groundwater or rainwater – and owned collectively by a community.

People sometimes boil dirty water to make it safer, but there are significant problems with this as a long-term solution.

As well as not getting rid of dirt, sourcing and burning a constant supply of fuel can be very difficult, expensive, and bad for people's health and the environment. Boiling also does not neutralise other contaminants, such as toxic metals, which poison groundwater around the world.

And it does nothing to stop millions of women and children having to walk miles for their water every day – leaving no time for paid work, education or play. Instead, boiling water adds even more time and further issues to their lives.

Nobody should be forced to live this way. As a long-term solution, it is fairer, cheaper and more sustainable to create a water supply that is close and safe at its source.

Water purifying tablets and filters are common in some of the places where we work. They can be vital as a short-term solution, such as in the aftermath of natural disasters when water sources have been affected.

But these products aren’t suitable as a long-term solution to the water crisis. The industry required to manufacture and deliver enough to all of the millions of people around the world still in need of clean water, every single day, would be impossible.

But more importantly it wouldn’t be fair. Making the world’s poorest people use short-term solutions as long-term answers creates a two-tier system. Everyone deserves access to the same thing – a local, sustainable supply of clean water as a service.

In many of the communities we work with, families split the duties necessary to survive. Traditionally, men will earn the family’s income through agricultural or manual work, and women will collect water, cook and look after children.

Providing a local source of clean water can drastically reduce the amount of time women and children need to spend collecting water, and vastly improve their health. It can also open up opportunities for women to earn an income themselves, and for children to attend school.

We regularly train women in how to maintain and repair water and sanitation technologies, and how to create a management board for them. Equipping women with applicable skills and responsibilities can help towards gender equality and the realisation of their rights.

Our partners can often provide a water point within a community, but depending on where groundwater lies and how the community is spread, it can be up to a few hundred metres away – a short walk – from some households.

In many places around the world, balancing heavy loads on the head is a cultural tradition practised for generations. There is no evidence to suggest it causes any long-term harm compared with carrying loads on the shoulder or back. However, any excessive load, no matter how it is carried, has the potential to cause painful problems over time.

On average, women and girls in developing countries carry an average of 20kg of water each time they collect some from a remote place. Having a local source changes this completely, giving people the freedom to collect the amount they want, when they want it.

Although technology plays a vital role in getting clean water and toilets to people, the problem is not one that can be fixed with a ‘silver bullet’ technology.

Charitable distribution of inventions – such as filters, pumps, purifiers, water condensation units, rolling water butts or similar – has been tried many times in the past, but only ever achieves limited short-term impacts.

Instead, the crisis is largely a management problem – one where governments and the local private sector don't have the finances, skills, coordination and dedicated institutions to provide water and sanitation services to citizens.

We want to see the eventual establishment of permanent services like these through governments and service providers. This is where real innovations in approach need to happen.

In our community work, we use reliable, simple technologies that are sourced locally, so that people and their governments are better able to maintain them sustainably in the future.

Our work: the bigger picture

Since 1981, we’ve directly reached 28.5 million people with clean water. But reaching everyone, everywhere is still a huge task that needs support, as 703 million people don't have clean water close to home. And toilets are at a far worse stage, with almost 1.5 billion people still without a decent toilet of their own.

People and governments around the world face extremes of geography, climate, poverty, natural disasters and conflict that make building water and sanitation services to meet the needs of everyone incredibly difficult without external help.

It’s therefore crucial that money continues to be invested in water and sanitation infrastructure for those in need, and in ways that will survive into the future. If a collective effort is made, we believe everyone, everywhere can have access to clean water and decent sanitation within a generation.

Often, poor communities are not aware of their entitlements to the human rights of basic water and sanitation services. We work with communities to increase their awareness of rights, and create dialogue between them and their local governments, whose duty it is to provide them.

No. However, we do work with governments and local authorities to improve coverage and rights to clean water, sanitation and hygiene services.

We do this through policy, advocacy, campaigning and dialogue with key decision-makers.

We want to see all governments build strong water and sanitation sectors, with robust systems that deliver services and keep them running. Working together helps governments be more accountable to their citizens.

Corruption is a serious threat to development work. To protect ourselves, we have a rigorous accounting system and an internal audit and compliance team, who report directly to the chair of an audit committee.

Between them, we track all of our expenditure, from our planning in offices to the practical work by our partners. We also conduct regular internal audits that offer fresh insights into improvements we can make in control, risk management, compliance and value for money.

Each year, after our own extensive accounting and reporting, we are then audited by the independent body BDO LLP.

No. In underdeveloped regions, high birth rates among those living in extreme poverty are partly a response to high child mortality – when a child is less likely to survive, parents are likely to have more children.

However, investing in water and sanitation helps address this by improving health and reducing child deaths. A reduction in child mortality leads to a reduction in the need for families to have more children.

High birth rates can also be a symptom of a lack of women’s empowerment. Access to water and sanitation, and the time-savings and health benefits they bring, has been shown to increase girls’ school attendance and women’s opportunities. Improving girls’ education and women’s social status are important factors in producing smaller, healthier families.

When we work with a community, it’s on the understanding that any solution will need their investment to be truly sustainable.

We cover the initial costs of planning and installation. Then, once the community is in a better financial position to look after the solutions, they take over – putting money aside for future maintenance and paying those elected to manage them.

Paying for services helps create responsibility and ownership of them within a community, which is vital to the success of a long-term solution.

All WaterAid projects are equitable and inclusive, too. This means that service bills are graded so that everyone can afford to pay and use the facilities, regardless of gender, caste, disability or any other factor. Those who are unable to afford any grade of tariff usually agree on other ways to contribute within the community.

Learn more in our Equality, inclusion and rights framework (PDF).

We know that every community faces different challenges. For this reason, all our projects are designed in collaboration with communities themselves.

By starting with people’s needs, we can develop solutions most likely to succeed in the long term. We train people how to maintain and manage their community’s services, and use locally sourced parts to ensure everything can be repaired and replaced easily in the future.

We also conduct studies that judge the progress of services later down the line. These help us continually work to improve the sustainability of the services we and our partners deliver. Read our Annual reports for the results.

With almost one in ten people worldwide still without access to clean water close to home, and 1.5 billion people without a toilet of their own, the global water and sanitation crisis is vast. Unfortunately, we cannot be everywhere there is need.

To ensure our work is as efficient and beneficial as possible, it is planned years in advance to a specific global strategy. The countries we work in were chosen because:

  • there is potential for our work to be effective and have a long-term positive impact;
  • the country lies at the lower end of the UNDP's Human Development Index, or has pockets of extreme poverty, and a significant part of the population in the country does not have access to water and/or sanitation;
  • there is an opportunity for our work to complement the work of others;
  • there is potential for us to influence other organisations to improve access to clean water and sanitation;
  • there is an opportunity for us to widen our experience and knowledge, increasing our credibility and ability to influence global change.

While we can't be everywhere we would like to help, our international advocacy work aims to change water and sanitation policies globally, even in regions where we don’t have a physical presence.

Unfortunately, no. Due to the scale of the water and sanitation crisis, and to be as effective as possible, we work to a global strategy, where work is researched and planned many years in advance. Because of this, we cannot respond to requests for specific advice or assistance.

However, there are many other agencies with different ways of working that might be able to help. We recommend visiting developmentaid.orgwango.org, or other similar NGO directory sites to find out more.

We also offer a range of technical information and guidance for others to use. Visit our Publications page to find out more.

Because we are a development organisation, specialising in long-term solutions, we are not set up to respond to emergency situations. However, if an emergency occurs in a region where we are already working, we will assist relief efforts in whatever way we can.

Our organisation

Yes, we are registered with the Charity Commission. Our registration numbers are:

  • ABN 99 700 687 141 (Australia)
  • 288701 (England and Wales)
  • SC039479 (Scotland)
  • 802426-1268 (Sweden)
  • EIN/tax ID 30-018-1674 (United States)

No. We do, however, gratefully accept support from religious community groups and partner with religious organisations in country programmes.

We are always keen to be as cost effective as possible, investing in both our current work and our ability to raise funds for future work. Last year, we spent 76p in every pound on delivering services and making change happen and 24p on fundraising and governance.

Our internal audit team also conduct regular assessments of our systems and practices, helping us understand how we can continue to improve on our value for money. A full breakdown of our income and expenditure can be found in our annual reports.

We are keen to be open and transparent about how we use our funds, and share our salary costs in our annual reports. The total employee benefits paid to WaterAid UK's Chief Executive in 2022-23 were salary and taxable benefits in kind (including employer national insurance contributions) of £134,067 (2022: £128,048) and pension contributions of £14,035 (2022: £13,526). 

WaterAid is a global organisation and the quality of our staff is crucial to reach as many people as possible. By employing highly skilled and experienced staff, we can bring lasting change to vulnerable communities. Employee salaries are regularly benchmarked against other charitable organisations, and our salary policy is agreed by our Board of Trustees.

Having our head office based in London gives us immediate access to the UK Government and other leading organisations, which is vital to our work. However, we are careful to balance out the expense this entails.

We have made considerable savings on rent since 1981, when we were originally given rent-free space within the offices of the National Water Council in Westminster. Later, when Thames Water left their Prince Consort House offices in Embankment, they donated the remaining time on their lease to us.

In 2005, once this lease expired, we moved to Durham Street, Vauxhall. At the time, rents in the area were much lower, especially compared with other more central parts of London, but recent regeneration has changed this. Therefore, following a detailed and thorough review of the options available to us, both inside and outside of London, in 2020 we relocated our UK office to Canary Wharf.

The move to Canary Wharf will bring a long-term cost saving, consequently allowing more resource to be dedicated to delivering our vision for the future. This move also helped us to create a globally-connected, inspiring environment where staff, volunteers and partners can work together. We have designed our new space to meet five key design principles around employee wellbeing, sustainability, flexibility, digital technology, and global connection.

Our agile, hybrid work environment is cost-effective and ensures staff, many of whom do not live in London, can collaborate effectively together. We also outsource key administrative functions to companies based throughout the UK, which helps reduce our costs and lets us operate more efficiently.

The huge scale of the global water and sanitation crisis means that inevitably there are many charities across the world trying to tackle it. However, attempting to merge these thousands of groups and work as one organisation would pose many challenges in logistics and practices, risking inefficiency.

There are already coalitions and networks that bring together and oversee many charities, and we regularly take part in partnerships of this kind for specific projects.

Such collaborations help to eliminate overlap and duplication of effort in areas where more than one charity may be working, and create opportunities to collaborate and share knowledge and ideas.

As a leader in the sector, our successful working practices are often cited by other organisations in their own work. For this reason, we readily share information through such resources as our Technologies page.

At WaterAid we are determined to see a world where everyone has access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030, and we are committed to maximising our impact to help ensure that this is achieved.

We are very aware of our responsibilities to the communities we work with, as well as to our supporters, donors, staff and the public. In setting pay we take seriously our responsibility to ensure value for money in everything we do, always being effective stewards of our resources. This includes using our money wisely to ensure we pay competitive and fair salaries that enable us to recruit and retain staff with the right values, skills and experience to achieve our mission. We aim to remunerate and to review remuneration in a transparent way.

All of our staff have an annual performance review. We believe that basing an element of pay on performance demonstrates our commitment to value for money, accountability to our stakeholders, and reinforces the importance of high standards of performance for all staff.

Pay scales for all staff are set with reference to market conditions, comparing ourselves with similar not-for-profit organisations. Market pay is determined using recognised salary surveys specialising in the charity and international development sectors. We seek to pay between the median and upper quartile of these comparators.

Pay ranges for the Chief Executive and Directors are set with reference to market data for each individual role, benchmarked using at least three relevant remuneration surveys.

Each year we consider an increase to be awarded on 1 April. Increases are determined taking into account the benchmark data, individual performance and affordability.

The People Committee of the Board provide assurance that WaterAid’s global remuneration policies and principles are being applied. The Committee reviews all proposed increases for Directors and recommends the remuneration of the Chief Executive for approval by the Board of Trustees.

Our Board of Trustees are not remunerated.

The gender pay gap shows the difference in average pay between men and women. The ethnicity pay gap shows the difference in average pay between those in the white/white British group and those in other ethnic groups.

Gender pay gap

As of 5 April 2022, the workforce at WaterAid in the UK was 70% women and 30% men. Our gap shows that men, on average (mean), earn 13.4% more than women. The midpoint of all hourly rates (the median) shows that men earn 12.5% more than women.

Ethnicity pay gap

Of those UK employees eligible for the reporting, 17% did not provide ethnicity data, 18% identify within an ethnic minority group and 65% identify as white/white British. We continue to encourage employees to submit their ethnicity data so that we can increase the validity of the data set.

Our UK ethnicity pay gap is 4.49% on average (mean) and the mid-point (median) is -0.64%. Whilst today there is limited external sector data against which this can be compared, it is encouraging that this is below 5% and, in the case of the median gap, this is inverse. We will continue to track and review the data to fully understand the reasons.

Our commitments

In recent years we have integrated our action plan for gender, ethnicity and disability for WaterAid in the UK. We have used the Fair Opportunities for all as a framework and our key actions are identified in the following areas:

  • Develop our apprenticeship scheme – we now apply the London Living Wage to our apprenticeship scheme.
  • Improving opportunities for work – we recently launched an internal global opportunities hub and have moved to a single pay scale for each grade in the UK, regardless of office base. Through targeted approaches we are making progress to addressing gender in-balances in particular parts of the organisation.
  • Making jobs at all levels flexible – almost all of our UK roles are open to flexibility in terms of hours and hybrid working.
  • Encouraging men and women to share childcare responsibilities – in 2022 we updated our special leave policy and launched a new childcare benefits provider.
  • Reduce prejudice, bias in recruitment, promotion and pay – we continue to improve our recruitment processes, and continually review where and how we advertise roles.
  • Report on progress – we report both internally and externally on our data.

See the full breakdown of our gender and ethnicity pay gap

Fundraising and support

If you’d like to change bank details or need to cancel a Direct Debit, please call us directly on 020 7793 4594. We’re here Monday to Friday, 9am to 5.30pm, and would be very happy to help. Please do not email your bank details.

If you’d like to increase the amount you donate, please complete our Direct Debit form, or call us on the number above.

Complete our Direct Debit form

To donate to WaterAid by cheque, please make it payable to 'WaterAid' and send to:

126 Fairlie Road

So we can acknowledge your contributions appropriately, we would be grateful if you include a cover note with your cheque detailing your name, address (as well as the details of your group/organisation if applicable) and how the money was raised.

Please visit Shop for Life – our online gift donation service.

Yes! We have a network of volunteer Speakers who would be happy to give a talk or educational workshop to your school or group.

It is very hard to give the general cost of a well, as the costs of specific items vary from country to country. But every community also has its own requirements – they may need an entirely different kind of solution and training, which could mean different costs.

We also prefer not to use donations for specific items or projects, as this helps us keep our administrative costs low. Instead, we designate donations as ‘unrestricted’ general funds, supporting our work in all the countries where we operate. This gives us flexibility in how we work and how we can help people.

We do not send volunteers to projects. We believe it is vital that each community takes responsibility for constructing, maintaining and managing their project themselves, receiving specialist support and training from our local partner agencies in the region.

Because the communities we work with are often in very remote areas, any visit would also require detailed planning and use valuable staff time and resources. Out of respect for the communities, we do not encourage self-funded trips to our projects either.

For further information on volunteering overseas, you may like to try Raleigh International or VSO.

Yes! We're very fortunate to be able to rely on a network of around 1,000 volunteers in the UK, who give their time supporting us in a wide range of ways: from lending a hand in our London office to helping some of the UK’s top festivals run smoothly, and from spreading the word at school assemblies to cheering on our marathon runners.

Explore all our voluntary opportunities

Your support is hugely appreciated, and our work depends on the kindness and generosity of people like you.

However, because of the scale of the water and sanitation crisis, we always need to continue raising funds to complete the work we have started, and to reach more communities in desperate need.

Although we raise funds from many different areas and are always looking for new supporters, one of the most cost-effective methods of raising funds is to ask those who are already kindly supporting if they would consider an extra donation.

We understand if you would rather donate at your own discretion and not be asked in the future, so please let us know if there are any fundraising communications you would prefer not to receive.

Contact us

Telephone fundraising is one the most cost-effective methods of raising the funds we rely on. We focus on direct debits as these are very cost-effective and give us a predictable income, enabling us to plan and work towards long-term goals.

Funds raised this way far exceed the costs involved and are a vital source of long-term income. We simply could not secure the donations we need to continue and expand our work without an agency managing calls on our behalf.

We hugely appreciate all the support we receive, and understand some prefer to donate at their own discretion. If you’d prefer not to receive these calls or have any questions, please do get in touch – we’d be very happy to help.

Please do visit our telephone fundraising page for more in-depth information on this aspect of our work.

Television advertising is a very effective way of raising awareness of the water and sanitation crisis, and reaching a new and very large audience. We always look for value for money in our advertising slots, and we focus on direct debits, which are essential for our long-term growth. The amount raised by our television appeals greatly outweighs their cost.

Yes, the donation pages of our website are hosted on ‘https’ – an application which protects data securely. When you visit the page asking for card details, the ‘https’ padlock symbol will appear in your web browser’s address bar to indicate that information being entered is secure. We adhere to strict data protection protocols when processing supporters’ data.

Thank you, but we don't not ship equipment overseas to our projects. All materials are locally sourced – this means the community can access spare parts for the future, and it helps the local economy. We sometimes suggest selling your equipment and making a donation instead.

There are several instances when we might not be able to claim Gift Aid on your donation. These include:

  • When you’re making a donation on behalf of someone else or a group of people. For example, if a friend gives you £10 which you donate to your fundraising page using your own card and details. Even if your friend is a UK taxpayer, the donation is not eligible because HMRC needs to know the details of the person actually contributing the funds.
  • When you’re making a donation on behalf of a company. You can only make Gift Aid declarations on your own taxpayer status when spending your own money. However, a company can claim tax relief on the donation when donating directly to the charity.
  • When you’re making a donation to a family member who's taking part in an event and their charity is contributing to the cost. For example, if you're donating to a close family member who is doing an overseas trek and the charity is paying for the cost of their trip.

Pay in your fundraising online

Top image: Tefy and his best friends, Satriniaina and Salohy, 10, wash their faces and drink water at the handwashing station of their school's sanitation block in Manjakandriana commune, Madagascar, January 2023.