To reach everyone, everywhere, with sustainable and safe water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030, we urgently need a substantial increase in the quantity and quality of financing.

The lack of sufficient or appropriate financing is one of the major barriers to fulfilling everyone’s human right to water and sanitation, and making progress on Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6). Most low- and middle-income countries face substantial funding gaps for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure, operations and maintenance, which can be multiple times more than the available finance provided through the “three Ts”: tariffs, taxes and transfers.

The accelerating climate crisis, growing inequality and the legacy of COVID-19 have intensified these challenges. Success for SDG6 depends on both the right quantity and quality of finance being in place nationally and globally each year through to 2030. This is therefore an essential condition for our mission to transform people's lives through sustainable and safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

With our national and global presence, 40 years of experience, and longstanding partnerships with governments, business and civil society, we are continuing to demand urgent investment in these essentials.

Our approach

We work to increase finance for safely managed WASH and ensure it is better targeted. We carry out research and advocacy and work with civil society organisations to hold WASH service providers, governments and donors to account.

We work with governments and donors to address the gaps in funding and advise them on the best areas to target available funds. We support WASH service providers to ensure their services are available to everyone, including people living in poverty and maginalised groups who may not be able to afford high tariffs or connection charges.

We also empower communities and civil society organisations to carry out their own research into government budgets and allocations, advocate for increased priority of gender equality and social inclusion, and demand their human rights to water and sanitation services are fulfilled.

Towards 2030, we are working to achieve higher domestic resource mobilisation and increases in Official Development Assistance (ODA), climate finance and private finance. We are also continuing to strengthen equity, efficiency, transparency and sustainability in financing. This includes monitoring and evaluating spending to ensure improvements are transparent, progressive and sustainable.

Essential element: aid’s critical role in financing WASH

Investment in water, sanitation and hygiene is a best buy investment for governments. Yet funding for WASH is declining at an alarming rate. This powerful investment can improve health outcomes, strengthen health systems and protect climate-vulnerable communities.

Jannatul collects safe drinking water in her water jar from the community water point in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Image: WaterAid/Habibul Haque

When aid is delivered to countries effectively, it spurs progress towards long-term solutions that help people live healthy, dignified lives. It is a vital resource for countries often struggling with huge challenges – but it is not always used as effectively as it could be in the WASH sector.

Fragmentation and inefficiency occur when sources of aid do not collaborate. Too often, money is channelled into short-term projects that are not part of a common plan. It also often bypasses country processes and systems that are essential for financing, implementing and monitoring WASH services in the long term. This slows down progress and undermines the sustainability of the services people receive.

We advocate for improving the effectiveness of aid across the WASH sector. Through our work at national and global levels, we strengthen people's understanding of the factors that ensure aid is effective, and work to change the incentives and practices that can weaken its impact.

We are a committed member of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) and have played a leading role in identifying and agreeing the partnership’s collaborative behaviours. These principles are aimed at ensuring investments are as effective as possible in strengthening the processes, systems and institutions needed to deliver sustainable WASH services. We work to ensure they are put into practice by monitoring progress and holding donors accountable for how money is spent.

Together with three other leading international WASH organisations – International Rescue Committee, Aguaconsult, and Water for People – we have drawn up a set of shared principles to translate the ambition of the SWA collaborative behaviours and guide our engagement at district, national and global levels. We actively promote understanding of these principles and monitor the extent to which they are implemented.  

Improving aid effectiveness so that governments can ensure long-term access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene will have a positive impact on what’s normal for millions of people. 

Latest resources and expert opinion

Top image: Mallika Baidya, Treasurer of the Reverse Osmosis Plant Committee, checking the accounts, Bangladesh. June 2023.

Secondary image: Jannatul collects safe drinking water in her water jar from the community water point in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This water source comes through a direct pipeline from Saidabad Water Treatment Plant. During the COVID-19 period, WaterAid Bangladesh and local partner SAJIDA Foundation set up the community WASH facility. September 2022.

Page last updated: May 2024