Which technologies help us make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere?

We know that no one technology, single approach or type of expertise will achieve universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). This is why we use a systems strengthening approach. We identify and address barriers in behaviours, policies, processes, resources, interactions and institutions that weaken the WASH system, and block the achievement of our mission.

A strong system is one that delivers sustainable and inclusive WASH services to everyone in the community. The selection, installation and promotion of appropriate and sustainable technology is therefore an essential part of every WASH system.

Technology is not an isolated component and has links with many other elements. For example, we demonstrate good practice in the design and delivery of borehole-based water supplies, while also supporting governments to develop national standards to ensure these supplies are installed and maintained to a high standard.

Explore some of the technologies we use to deliver sustainable and inclusive WASH services to communities across the globe. 

Our approach

With our focus on long-term, sustainable development, we use technologies and approaches that local communities and institutions can support after our work in the area.  

Any technology we use needs to suit the local financial and geographical conditions, and the technical skills of the community that will operate and maintain it. We aim to put in place technologies that use locally sourced materials and spare parts that can be purchased and transported easily.

We also work closely with local and national governments, who may have their own criteria for certain technology choices.

With all technologies, we evaluate the feasibility of each approach with the first aim of long-term sustainability. Each is evaluated on the basis of:  

  • The availability of the technology and its materials and spare parts in local markets  
  • The ability to match people’s needs and aspirations
  • The ability to deliver cost-effective, long-term supplies without complex maintenance, expensive components or expensive chemicals
  • Demand from local water re-sellers and water and sanitation agencies

Common types of technology WaterAid uses

Rural water technologies include protected hand-dug wells, boreholes, tube wells, rainwater harvesting schemes, protected springs, gravity-flow schemes, sand dams, infiltration galleries and community or household water treatment solutions.

Where pumping is required, we usually support the installation of hand pumps. Electric, diesel and solar pumps are sometimes used where there are clear plans for operations and maintenance, sufficient funds from users and local governments to cover these, and where spare parts and skilled technicians can be found locally.

In urban areas, we work with official water providers to help improve their supply network and keep it affordable for poorer residents.

Examples of sanitation technologies include simple pit toilets, ventilated improved pit toilets, dual pit toilets, composting toilets, pour-flush toilets and communal toilets with a septic tank. Communities and families are trained in all aspects of the correct use and maintenance of toilets. We also consider emptying and transport systems, which are particularly important in high-density settlements.

WaterAid often designs handwashing facilities as part of holistic hygiene behaviour change campaigns and ensures that these facilities are conveniently located, desirable and attractive to increase handwashing rates. We work with different representative organisations to ensure that older people, children, people with different disabilities and their care givers can use the facilities.

This list is not exhaustive, and we support innovation at the local level as well as efforts to develop new sustainable technologies. 

Inclusive design: practical tools to improve accessibility

Accessibility and safety audits can be used to rapidly assess a facility's usability from the perspective of people whose requirements are often ignored in standard design, such as women and people with disabilities.

Selina, 15, washing her hands at the sink in the new accessible toilet facilities in her school in Zambia.
Image: WaterAid/Chileshe Chanda

Technical FAQs

1. I have invented a new technology or product that I think would benefit WaterAid. What should I do?

We are always interested to hear about innovative technologies and approaches, and we are particularly supportive of locally led innovation efforts in the communities where we work. 

We do, however, have limited financial resources, so are not in a position to pilot new inventions developed outside our programmatic work. If there is a sufficient body of data concerning the performance, cost, sustainability and suitability of a particular technology, and it fills a clear gap in the provision of equipment or services, we may consider using it. However, if it seems that a technology would not work for the communities we work with, we will not take it up. 

If you have developed a new water or sanitation technology, or have a new product that has been reviewed against the above criteria and would like further advice, please contact our technical advisors

2. I have a question about water, sanitation or hygiene technologies. Who should I contact?

We encourage you to explore our technical briefs on our water supply, sanitation and hygiene technology pages as these may contain the information you need. If you still have a question about WASH technologies, please contact our technical advisors

Latest resources and expert opinion

Top image: Samundra, 24, collects water from a handpump. She is a community representative appointed by WaterAid in a village in Sindh, Pakistan. November 2023.

Second image: Selina, 15, washes her hands at the sink in the new accessible toilet facilities at her school in Mwandi District, Zambia.

Page last updated: May 2024