Improvements to water supply and sanitation services should deliver permanent benefits to their users. Likewise, hygiene and sanitation behaviour changes established now should last into the future.

In many of the countries where we work, the systems and institutions needed to ensure sustainability are extremely weak or non-existent. Communities can struggle to keep services working on their own, and behaviour change improvements can be lost without continual promotion and reinforcement.

Services can be threatened by poor management, insufficient financing, limited capacities, poor governance, climate variability, climate change, ecosystem degradation, pollution and a growing demand for water resources.

To achieve universal and lasting access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene by 2030, attention must be given to the sustainability of services and behaviour change. Watch this short film to find out the solutions:


SusWASH is a five-year initiative aimed at addressing the long-term challenges of service and behaviour sustainability, as well as ensuring the WASH sector can provide services to all groups in society.


Our approach

Making sure services and behaviour change are sustainable is a challenge. It requires more than selecting appropriate technologies, holding training exercises, or encouraging community ownership.

Hygiene and sanitation behaviour changes will only be permanent with continual promotion of good practices based on an understanding of why people change their habits. Permanent services will only be established if the systems and institutions required to manage, finance and support them are created, strengthened and maintained.

We aim to address all of the issues that have an impact on the sustainability of services, be they social, financial, environmental, institutional, legal, capacity-related or technical. We are committed to ensuring permanent services and behaviour change through a mixture of approaches, including:

  • Creating strong demand for services.
  • Ensuring high quality implementation, promoting good practice in service delivery for wider uptake by governments and service providers.
  • Working in support of national systems, pushing for a strong, enabling national policy and regulatory environment.
  • Strengthening accountability and customer satisfaction mechanisms through a rights-based approach.
  • Supporting local private sector initiatives that strengthen supply chains.
  • Partnering with education and health services to ensure that sanitation and hygiene behaviour change messaging continues to be relayed.
  • Building the resilience of service users to cope with external threats to sustainability.
  • Carrying out in-depth research into specific areas with an impact on sustainability.
  • Monitoring the water supply, sanitation and hygiene services we have funded for at least ten years after implementation. We use the results to understand what works and what doesn’t.

We often work in remote, rural areas where the institutions tasked with service provision are weak. Here, we are increasingly using a district-wide approach which involves strengthening the monitoring, planning, financing, service delivery, post-implementation support, and asset management functions of local government and service providers.

We work with governments and local actors at all levels, including communities, to identify and address the barriers in behaviours, policies, processes, resources, interactions and institutions that block achievement of inclusive, lasting, universal access to WASH. This often involves working on various parts of the WASH system which is represented in the diagram below.

WASH system building blocks
WaterAid’s conceptualisation of the WASH system showing actors (people and institutions), factors (social, economic, political, environmental, technological) and interlinkages that influence the achievement of inclusive, sustainable, universal access to WASH.


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