Technology resources

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

Here is a selection of some of the technologies we and our partners use to reach the poorest and most marginalised people with water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services.

We offer a technical enquiry service run by engineering specialists. Before contacting them, please read our technical briefs and frequently asked questions below, as they may contain the information you are looking for.

Water

We use technologies that are low-cost, appropriate to the local area, and can be easily maintained by the communities who use them.

  • Gravity-fed schemes: A gravity-fed supply from a small upland river, stream or spring uses the force of gravity to transport water by pipework to tapstands near homes, reducing the work involved in carrying water. 
  • Hand-dug wells: The traditional method of obtaining groundwater in rural areas of the developing world, and still the most common.
  • Handpumps: If water to be raised from a well or borehole is for people to drink, it is preferable to install a handpump. 
  • Protection of spring sources:A spring source can be used either to supply a gravity scheme or provide a single outlet, running continuously. 
  • Rainwater harvesting: Where there is no surface water, or where groundwater is deep or inaccessible, the most appropriate alternative is often the collection of rainwater.

Sanitation 

We use the most appropriate, affordable and sustainable solution to the local sanitation situation.

  • Community-managed latrines: Community-managed latrines are larger than individual latrines and serve a greater number of users. 
  • Household sanitation: Household sanitation prevents open defecation, which results in disease-causing pathogens being spread freely. 
  • Sanitation and hygiene approaches: There are different ways to develop and implement a sanitation or hygiene promotion programme, and elements of each approach can be combined to suit a particular context.
  • Urban pit waste management: All pit latrines, septic tanks and aqua privies will eventually become full of sludge, requiring various pit emptying methods and options for sludge disposal. 
  • Wastewater treatment: Wastewater treatment is essential to prevent pathogens from entering the environment and causing disease.

Technology posters - water 

Technical FAQs

1. What are the different technologies that WaterAid uses?

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

Where pumping is required, WaterAid usually supports the installation of handpumps. Electrical, diesel and solar pumps are sometimes used where communities are able to cover operation and maintenance costs and where spare parts can be found locally.

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

Examples of sanitation technologies include simple pit toilets, ventilated improved pit (VIP) 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 usage and maintenance of toilets. We consider emptying and transport systems which are of particular importance in high density settlements.

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

  • Availability of technology and its materials and spare parts in local markets; 
  • Match to people’s actual needs
  • Ability to deliver cost effective, long-term supplies without complex maintenance, expensive components or expensive chemicals.
  • Demand from local resellers and local water and sanitation agencies.

These lists are not exhaustive and WaterAid is supportive of innovation at the local level and efforts to develop new sustainable technologies.

2. Why do you use the technologies you do?

WaterAid focuses on long-term sustainable development and therefore uses technologies and approaches that can be supported by local communities and institutions beyond WaterAid's term of intervention.

The technologies we use to assist with water and sanitation provision need to be appropriate to local financial and geographical conditions and within the technical capacity of the benefitting community to operate and maintain. 

We aim to use technologies that include locally sourced materials and spare parts which can be purchased and transported easily. 

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

3. I have invented a new technology or product that I think would benefit WaterAid, what should I do?

WaterAid is always interested to hear about innovative technologies and approaches. We are particularly supportive of locally led innovation within the communities where we work. They can support our local partners to develop technical solutions to water, sanitation and hygiene related problems.

We do however, have limited financial resources and as such are not in a position to pilot new inventions developed outside of our programme work. If there is a sufficient body of data concerning the performance, cost, sustainability and appropriateness of a particular technology and it fills a clear gap in the provision of equipment or services, we may consider using it.

But, if it seems to us that a technology is not appropriate for work with the poorest people, we will not take it up. Reasons for this may include cost, availability of spare parts, skills to operate and maintain, and suitability for use in specific geographical conditions.

If you have developed a new water or sanitation technology or have a new product that's been reviewed against the above criteria and would like further advice please contact our Technical Advisors at [email protected].