Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sustainable Development Goals: Proposed stand-alone goal for water & sanitation, refining indicators

Global targets related to water and sanitation access were comprised within Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7 of "ensuring environmental sustainability." For the post-2015 period, a more focused goal of "ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all" was proposed on July 19. The text of this goal and associated targets in the current proposal is:

Proposed goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
6.1 by 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
6.2 by 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
6.3 by 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater, and increasing recycling and safe reuse by x% globally
6.4 by 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity, and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity
6.5 by 2030 implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate
6.6 by 2020 protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes
6.a by 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water and sanitation related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies
6.b support and strengthen the participation of local communities for improving water and sanitation management
(The complete proposal can be found here.)

These goals and targets will undergo further revision in the months ahead. Equally important is the finalization of associated definitions and indicators for monitoring during the SDG period. What do we mean by "adequate and equitable sanitation," "untreated wastewater," and "sustainable withdrawals"? How should these ideas be measured for global monitoring? The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) recently released a draft report outlining proposed indicators for the 17 SDG targets under consideration, but it has lots of "to be determined" placeholders, particularly regarding industrial waste discharges, wastewater/biosolids re-use, and water resources management.

The good news is that the debate over definitions and indicators is happening now, before the launch of the SDG period on January 1, 2016. As SDSN Executive Director Guido Schmidt-Traub noted in a recent blog post, the indicators used to monitor progress toward the MDGs were finalized several years after the adoption of the goals. Let's hope that the WASH community can agree on targets, indicators, and definitions that are both ambitious yet practical and useful for decision-makers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

New paper on video surveillance of handwashing in schools

Amy J. Pickering, Annalise G. Blum, Robert F. Breiman, Pavani K. Ram, Jennifer Davis

Published: March 27, 2014
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092571

Findings from this study suggest that video compares favorably with the 'gold standard' of structured observation in terms of generating reliable data on hand hygiene behavior. Video is also potentially superior to observation in terms of cost (person-time for data collection and coding/data entry), particularly with quality control efforts such as double coding.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Getting rid of New York City's poop

If you haven't heard the story of NYC's biosolids management saga before--or even if you have but would like an entertaining 20-minute re-telling--I recommend this Radiolab podcast (in spite of the somewhat wanting economic 'analysis' at the end!)

Friday, October 4, 2013

US government shuts down. Venezuelan government seizes toilet paper factory.

Venezuela Is Running Out of Toilet Paper 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The real future of clean water, D. Bornstein

Nice piece about the limitations of traditional philanthropy models to expand sustainable access to water supply services.

The Real Future of Clean Water

What would it take to ensure that everyone in the world had access to clean water? I’m prompted to ask this question in response to a recent New York Times Magazine article, which focused on Charity: Water, an organization that has reportedly raised $100 million to finance water projects in the developing world, making it the largest water-focused nonprofit in the United States.

The message that wealthy donors can solve the world’s water crisis is misleading.

Charity: Water has done an important job raising public awareness about the world’s water crisis and demonstrated remarkable fundraising ability — engaging both “micro-philanthropists” and wealthy entrepreneurs. The organization’s fundraising is guided by the imperative of giving its donors a satisfying experience. However, to do this, Charity: Water has had to simplify the problem and narrow in on one piece of the solution — the piece with the most potential to deliver that experience: individualized water projects, like wells or purification systems, that can be photographed, located on Google Maps, and commemorated with plaques featuring donors’ names. To get the work done, the organization identifies partner organizations across the developing world with track records of delivering results, and provides flexible funding to meet local needs.

Charity: Water aims to show through the growth of its philanthropic work that the world’s water crisis is solvable. The message it effectively conveys is: if enough affluent people in the West were generous enough to pay for water projects in poor countries, we could fix the problem. This message is misleading — and it doesn’t serve the interests of the organization’s donors, other water organizations, or people who are beyond the reach of Charity: Water.

Let’s put this problem in perspective. The World Health Organization has estimated that it would require investments totaling $535 billion between 2011 and 2015 to provide universal access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. This problem cannot be solved by scaling philanthropy. It’s like using an “adopt-a-highway” approach to solve the world’s transportation problems. To fix this problem, governments and businesses must take the lead...

Read the full piece here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

New paper on 'sense of ownership' and sustianability in rural water

Does sense of ownership matter for rural water system sustainability? Evidence from Kenya

Sara J. Marks, Kyle Onda and Jennifer Davis
Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development Vol 3 No 2 pp 122–133 © IWA Publishing 2013 doi:10.2166/washdev.2013.098

Community sense of ownership for rural water infrastructure is widely cited as a key factor in ensuring sustainable service delivery, but no empirical investigation has evaluated the relationship between sense of ownership and sustainability outcomes. This study examines the association between system sustainability and sense of ownership among households and water committees, using primary data collected throughout 50 rural communities with piped water systems in Kenya. Data sources include in-person interviews with 1,916 households, 312 water committee members and 50 system operators, as well as technical assessments of water systems. Using principal components analysis we create composite measures of system sustainability (infrastructure condition, users' confidence, and ongoing management), and of water committees' and households' sense of ownership for the system. All else held constant, infrastructure condition is positively associated with water committee members' sense of ownership, whereas users' confidence and system management are positively associated with households' sense of ownership. These findings stand in contrast with much of the published literature on rural water planning, which assumes homogeneity of ownership feelings across all members of a community and which suggests a consistent and positive association between households' sense of ownership and sustainability.

Full paper here!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sad news: Parveen Rehman killed in Pakistan

The long-time director of the Orangi Pilot Project in Pakistan was murdered this week. Parveen Rehman was a tireless champion for Karachi's low-income households. Under her leadership the OPP helped communities design and install sanitation facilities and low-cost sewerage for tens of thousands of households. The OPP's work has been controversial, and certainly not perfect from a technical standpoint, but it has made a real difference on the ground and also challenged the notion that low-income communities have little or no demand for improved sanitation services. Parveen Rehman will be sorely missed.