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

WaterAid uses a systems strengthening approach. We identify and try to address barriers in behaviours, policies, processes, resources, interactions and institutions that block the achievement of inclusive, lasting and universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services. 

The selection, installation and promotion of appropriate and sustainable technology is a critical component of any WASH system.

Technology is not an isolated component; it has links with many other elements of the WASH system. For example, WaterAid demonstrates good practice in the design and delivery of borehole-based water supplies, and supports governments to develop national standards to ensure such supplies are designed and installed to a high quality. Combined, these two elements may lead to improved skills among drilling technicians.  

This page presents a selection of some of the technologies that WaterAid and its partners use to reach the poorest and most marginalised people with WASH services.

Inclusive design

Accessibility and safety audits are participatory and practical tools that can be used to rapidly assess a facility's usability from the perspective of people whose requirements are often ignored in standard design

Image: WaterAid/James Kiyimba

Technical FAQs

1. What different technologies does WaterAid use?

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.

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

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

2. Why do you use those technologies?

We focus on long-term sustainable development and so 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.

3. 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 within the communities where we work. 

We do, however, have limited financial resources and, as such, 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 poorest people, 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

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

We are happy to answer questions relating to WASH technologies sent to [email protected]. However, before contacting us, please explore all our technical briefs at the links below and read the FAQs above, as these may contain the information you require.

Top image: Madalo, 15, and Falesi, 13, use the new handpump in their village in Malawi.

Second image: Olupot Martin, 50, collects water from an inclusive borehole in Abibicho village, Amuria District, Uganda.