Urban Water Supply and Sanitation

The Challenges

Across the developing world rapid urbanization is occurring, with most of the growth in cities concentrated in informal or slum areas.  A World Bank report, The Urbanization of Global Poverty, released in February, 2007, cites,

"We find that one-quarter of the world’s consumption poor live in urban areas and that the proportion has been rising over time.  Urbanization helped reduce absolute poverty in the aggregate but did little for urban poverty reduction; over 1993-2002, the count of the '$1 a day' poor fell by 150 million in rural areas but rose by 50 million in urban areas."

Urban water supply and sanitation service providers in many developing countries are already strained under current demands and will face formidable obstacles, oftentimes from policy constraints, in meeting this growing demand.  In many cities informal providers and small scale independent providers (SSIPs) are cropping up to meet the demands of the population for water supply, especially in the slums. 

There are promising examples of SSIP’s, but in most cases in the developing world there is a lack of effective regulation, accountability, and transparency of both SSIP’s and often of formal providers as well.   Sanitation presents an even greater challenge.  Where public toilet facilities have been constructed, they are often not properly managed and fall into disrepair and disuse.  Because of a lack of consultation with the underserved poor, systems are often not designed with a pro-poor focus.

The Opportunities and WSP Activities

 To address these shortcomings WSP is providing global vision and leadership on urban water supply and sanitation topics that will enhance cross-regional knowledge sharing and influence our donors and large scale government programs. Some areas of our work are:

  • Utility reform: Creating roadmaps for institutional reform and advising on service options for increasing access to the poor.
  • Local private sector: Helping link small private providers to utilities, and mobilizing finances in water markets toward Urban projects.
  • Voice and client power: Strengthening the role of the poor in demanding access to services at levels they require and can afford.

Much work is needed to further understand the ingredients of successful initiatives in this area, including the incentives, the information-advocacy linkages, and the right tools and strategies for improved accountability to citizens and clients.

For more information, please visit http://www.ib-net.org/, The International Benchmarking Network for Water and Sanitation Utilities.