Water and Sanitation

Providing water and sanitation for all in an equitable and sustainable way is central to achieving global justice for poor women and men. Despite successive global declarations and efforts, the situation remains appalling with millions suffering from lack of access.

Simplistic portrayals of water and sanitation 'crises' have often led to misunderstandings on the nature of the problem and how to address it. The result has been a failure to centralise the needs and interests of the poor and marginalised within different solutions.

Water Justice

Principally conducted by researchers at IDS and within the STEPS Centre, our work on water justice critically examines the politics and pathways of water and sanitation policy and practice through interdisciplinary research on access, rights and control over these key resources. Through this research we ask how future global action on water and sanitation and water resources management can centralise the needs of the poor and most marginalised.

Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS)

IDS has been working on the research, learning and networking aspects of CLTS for close to a decade. During this time, CLTS has become an international movement. The IDS programme on Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) works around the world to ensure that CLTS goes to scale with quality and in a sustainable and inclusive manner. The aim is to contribute to the dignity, health and wellbeing of children, women and men in the developing world who currently suffer the consequences of inadequate or no sanitation and poor hygiene.

Photo of Gordon McGranahan, Cities research fellow More details

IDS staff or research student More details

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Photo of Jeremy Allouche, IDS research fellow More details

Photo of John Thompson, a Research Fellow in the IDS Rural Futures research cluster More details

Kamal Kar photo More details

Photo of Naomi Vernon More details

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photo of Shilpi Srivastava More details

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DFID Innovation Prizes for Environment and Development

Running innovation prizes that will improve poor people's resilience to climate change. More details

Groundwater Futures in Sub-Saharan Africa (GroFutures)

GroFutures is a 4-year interdisciplinary research project aiming to develop the scientific basis and participatory management processes by which groundwater resources can be used sustainably for poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa. More details

HEART (Health and Education Advice and Resource Team)

HEART is a consortium of leading organisations in international development, health, nutrition, education, social protection and WASH. More details

Human Development Innovation Fund

The Human Development Innovation Fund (HDIF) identifies and supports innovations that have the potential to create social impact in education, health and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) across Tanzania. More details

Improving access to livelihoods, jobs and basic services in violent contexts

Expanding access to work and services, such as public utilities and safe and reliable transportation, are important elements of any approach to strengthen security in poor urban neighbourhoods. More details

Roads for Water

Water is an invisible passenger travelling on and under roads. Roads also act as dikes altering run-off patterns and sometimes even re-arranging watersheds. Road programs and projects directly deal with existing land and water property and user rights: farmers gaining or losing water resources. More details

Sharing Lessons, Improving Practice: Maximising the Potential of Community-Led Total Sanitation

CLTS is an innovative methodology for mobilising communities to completely eliminate open defecation (OD). More details

Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre

The STEPS Centre is an interdisciplinary global research and policy engagement hub, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. It aims to develop a new approach to understanding, action and communication on sustainability and development. More details

Sustainable Services at Scale (Triple-S) Initiative

The Triple-S Initiative aims to catalyse systemic change in rural water policies and practices, to move from an infrastructure-based approach towards service delivery approaches. IDS is providing ongoing external learning and methodology support to the initiative. More details

Universalising Water and Sanitation Coverage in Urban Areas: From Global Targets To Local Realities in Dar Es Salaam

The Sustainable Development Goals have targeted universal access to water and sanitation, and associated monitoring is intended to help achieve this target. Reflecting on Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, this consultancy explores how global monitoring could better support local efforts to improve water and sanitation in low-income urban settlements. More details

Water Justice Programme

The Water Justice Programme critically examines the politics and pathways of water and sanitation policy and practice through interdisciplinary research on access, rights and control over these key resources More details

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IDS publications on international development research

Evolving Urban Health Risks: Housing, Water and Sanitation, and Climate Change

This chapter examines the urban health risk transition and some of its implications. It starts by examining how and why health indicators can counterbalance more conventional economic indicators in assessing the impacts of urban environmental burdens. More details

Voices From the Source

Voices from the source: Struggles with local water security in Ethiopia

This assessment explores local water security in two very different sites in rural Ethiopia – a pastoral district in the eastern Somali region (Shinile), and a somewhat remote agricultural district in the south (Konso). More details

IDS publications on international development research

Community-driven Sanitation Improvement in Deprived Urban Neighbourhood: Meeting the Challenges of Local Collective Action, Co-production, Affordability and a Trans-sectoral Approach

There is an international consensus that urban sanitary conditions are in great need of improvement, but sharp disagreement over how this improvement should be pursued. Both market-driven and state-led efforts to improve sanitation in deprived communities tend to be severely compromised, as there is a lack of effective market demand (due to collective action problems) and severe barriers to the centralized provision of low-cost sanitation facilities. In principle, community-driven initiatives have a number of advantages. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Introduction to the Special Issue: Water Grabbing? Focus on the (Re)Appropriation of Finite Water Resources

Water Alternatives 5.2 (2012)

Recent large-scale land acquisitions for agricultural production (including biofuels), popularly known as 'land grabbing', have attracted headline attention. Water as both a target and driver of this phenomenon has been largely ignored despite the interconnectedness of water and land. More details

This is the cover for IDS Bulletin 43.2 ' ‘Some for All?’ Politics and Pathways in Water and Sanitation'.

'Some for All?' Politics and Pathways in Water and Sanitation

IDS Bulletin 43.2 (2012)

This IDS Bulletin looks back at the legacy of the UN’s New Delhi 1990 global consultation and the Dublin Conference that followed, assessing their meaning and significance, and challenging the wider global water and sanitation community to rethink approaches and emphases, shifting from targets and pronouncement to sustainability and local knowledge. More details

IDS publications on international development research

The Social Construction of Scarcity: The Case of Water in Western India

The world is caught in the mesh of a series of environmental crises. So far attempts at resolving the deep basis of these have been superficial and disorganized. Global Political Ecology links the political economy of global capitalism with the political ecology of a series of environmental disasters and failed attempts at environmental policies. More details

IDS publications on international development research

'Lukenya Notes': Taking CLTS to Scale with Quality

This document is a summary of the key recommendations from the IDS meeting of CLTS practitioners held in Lukenya Nairobi in July 2011, immediately after the AfricaSan3 meeting. More details

IDS Research Summary

Digging in, Spreading out and Growing up: Introducing CLTS in Africa

IDS Research Summary of IDS Practice Paper 8 (2011)

Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS), an approach that focuses on community-wide behaviour change to stop open defecation, has spread widely but with varying outcomes in Africa. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Water and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding

Water resources play a unique and varied role in post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding. As a basic human need, the provision of safe water is among the highest priorities of government and humanitarian interventions during post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding. More details

This is the image of Digging in, Spreading out and Growing up: Introducing CLTS in Africa.

Digging in, Spreading out and Growing up: Introducing CLTS in Africa

IDS Practice Paper 8 (2011)

Open defecation is the norm in rural and urban Africa – only about a third of the population uses improved sanitation facilities – and this contributes in various ways to a heavy disease burden. More details

Shit Matters

Shit Matters: The Potential of Community-Led Total Sanitation

Sanitation remains one of the biggest development challenges of our time, and a long-neglected issue associated with taboos and stigma. Despite growing attention and efforts, many top-down approaches to sanitation have failed, reflecting that simply providing people with a latrine or toilet does not necessarily guarantee its use. More details

IDS publications on international development research

The Sustainability and Resilience of Global Water and Food Systems: A Political Analysis of the Interplay Between Security, Resource Scarcity, Political Systems and Global Trade

Food Policy 36.S1 (2011)

In this paper the example of cocoa production in Ghana is used to explore how the narratives portraying African farmers have changed over the last 70 years. These evolving narratives are explored through the notion of a 'good farmer'. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Water Security: towards the human securitization of water?

The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations 12.1 (2011)
IDS publications on international development research

Provision of Water and Sanitation Services

In the twentieth century, the urban settings of the wealthy nations were largely associated with opportunity, accumulation of wealth, and better health than their rural counterparts. In the twenty-first century, demographic changes, globalization, and climate change are having important health consequences on wealthy nations and especially on low- and middle-income countries. More details

This is the image for The Limits to Scarcity: Contesting the Politics of Allocation.

The Limits to Scarcity: Contesting the Politics of Allocation

Scarcity is considered a ubiquitous feature of the human condition. It underpins much of modern economics and is widely used as an explanation for social organisation, social conflict and the resource crunch confronting humanity's survival on the planet. More details

IDS publications on international development research

L'hydropolitique et les Relations Internationales: Introduction

Dynamiques Internationales 2 (2010)

Le deuxième numéro de Dynamiques internationales présente les conclusions du panel thématique sur l'hydropolitique tenu lors du 10ème Congrès de l'Association Française de Science Politique, du 7 au 9 septembre 2009. More details


The Dynamics and Sustainability of Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS): Mapping Challenges and Pathways

STEPS Working Paper 37 (2010)

Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) represents a radical alternative to conventional top-down approaches to sanitation and offers hope of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. More details