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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

In Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) we provide evidence to support better WASH policy, advocacy and practice in developing countries. Committed to ethical principles of participation and equality, we work in partnerships and advisory roles to support sustainable approaches in Asia and the Pacific.

ISF is a founding member of the Australian WASH Reference Group, which comprises NGOs and academic institutions and offers policy advice and operates as a community of practice. This group organised the WASH 2014  and WASH 2016 conferences on key sector issues with participants from civil society, government, industry, donors and academics- watch out for the next conference, planned for March 2018!

We are well-connected internationally, and participate in groups working to improve action on WASH, including the Sanitation and Water for All partnership and the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

ISF also leads research promoting sustainable water futures in Australia and developed countries, and promoting or translating ideas between developed and developing economies. Read more about our Australian water futures research.

View/download our WASH capability statement here.

Other recent ISF WASH activities and related resources include:

Gender and SDG 6: the Critical Connection – A Framing Paper for the High-Level Panel on Water

The integrated Sustainable Development Goals present a timely opportunity for all actors, at all levels, to explicitly address gender discrimination and inequality, and to proactively facilitate women’s voice, participation and empowerment. As explored in this Framing Paper, Goal 6 and the High-Level Panel on Water Action Plan can significantly contribute to gender equality in both water resources management and WASH, and by doing so, they will contribute to more sustainable and effective water management outcomes for all people, while decreasing the inequalities prevalent in many societies.

Grant, M., Huggett, C., Willetts, J., (2016) Gender and SDG 6: the Critical Connection – A Framing Paper for the High-Level Panel on Water, prepared for the Australian Water Partnership at the request of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Enterprise in WASH

Australian Development Research Scheme Award (ADRAS) Grant

Working in partnership with four international civil society organisations and local research institutions in Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Vietnam, this research investigates the role of micro, small and medium enterprises as important emerging players in sustainable WASH service delivery for the poor. Find out more and access research outputs at enterpriseinwash.info

enterprise in WASH

Urban sanitation research

Client: SNV Development Organisation

ISF and SNV have a long term partnership focused on research and learning to improve practice and contribute to sector knowledge and evidence.
Completed work to date includes:
Financing Sanitation for Cities and Towns: Learning Paper (2014) This paper focuses on access to the upfront finance and other lumpy finance needs for initial investment and for rehabilitation/replacement as physical systems approach their end of life.   
Critical Questioning of City Sanitation Planning (2016) This paper prompts practitioners, policy-makers and development agencies to reflect on their approaches to city sanitation planning and the assumptions that underlie them. 
Guidance for Exploring Legal and Policy Aspects of Urban Sanitation and Hygiene (2016) provides support for WASH practitioners undertaking a scan of legal arrangements to inform the design or delivery or urban sanitation and hygiene programs. 
A Guide to Septage Transfer Stations (2016) provides information on the salient aspects of selecting, designing, building, operating and maintaining a septage transfer station. 
Our current collaborative efforts are focused on:
  • 'Smart’ compliance of sanitation services;
  • Urban sanitation reuse experiences in Birendranagar, Nepal;
  • Urban sanitation performance monitoring;
  • Local government engagement on urban de-sludging
Further outputs based on this work will be added during 2017.
Inspecting sanitation systems in Indonesia

Governance of community scale sanitation

Australian Development Research Scheme Award (ADRAS) Grant

With community scale sanitation systems planned for significant scale up in Indonesia, this research seeks to improve their governance to ensure sustainable long-term services. Conducted in partnership with the Ministry of National Development Planning (Bappenas), BORDA (Germany), ODI, IWA, international advisors and local partners. Find out more and access research outputs at http://communitysanitationgovernance.info/

sanitation discussions

Making pathogens visible

Wastewater treatment systems at household and community scale in Indonesia, and likely other developing countries, are not very effective at removing disease-causing pathogens. The liquid effluents discharged to the environment are largely unnoticed and unmanaged, but can carry hazardous levels of pathogens. This paper highlights, proposes and demonstrates the application of a new tool, the Pathogen Hazard Diagram, to aid understanding of the pathogen levels that may pass through common wastewater treatment systems and end up where people may be exposed. While there is little reliable location-specific pathogen data available, this simple thinking tool is based on first principles and text-book data to help assess local hazards that may result from chosen wastewater treatment technologies.    

Mitchell, C., Abeysuriya, K. & Ross, K. 2016, 'Making pathogen hazards visible: a new heuristic to improve sanitation investment efficacy', Waterlines, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 163-181. (download PDF)

public bathroom in Indonesia

Impact assessment of a gender and WASH monitoring tool in Vietnam

Client: Plan International 

ISF partnered with Plan International Australia to implement a research project during 2016 which examined the impact of the Gender and WASH Monitoring Tool (GWMT) on the achievement of strategic gender outcomes in Central Vietnam. The research found that there has been considerable positive strategic gender change in the sites were Plan undertakes WASH programming. However, the research did not find a direct link between the achievement of strategic gender outcomes and the use of the GWMT. Research revealed that on its own the GWMT used on an annual basis cannot be expected to engender strategic gender outcomes. Poster presentation- winner of WASH Future 2016 Conference poster-award. (6.9MB PDF). The final research report  "From practical to strategic changes: Strengthening gender in WASH" is available from CS WASH web site.

Research into Civil Society Organisations’ learning for impact in WASH programming

Client: Palladium/CS WASH Fund

Research has been undertaken by the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF), University of Technology Sydney (UTS) for the CS WASH Fund exploring how Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) involved in WASH learn and improve programming and practice to align with evidence-based approaches. The research also outlines the most preferred and effective communication materials, formats and mechanisms.

The CSO Learning for impact in WASH programming learning brief can be found here.  

The CSO Learning for impact in WASH programming report can be found here.

Preliminary research results were presented by ISF in a webinar in April 2016 (view the recording here).  Drawing on the knowledge of 100 WASH practitioners, donors and academics, this webinar provides participants with the collective wisdom and experience of these stakeholders around what works with respect to translating knowledge into practice.

This research was funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through the Civil Society WASH Fund Management Facility/Palladium.

Making the the Rights Real

ISF collaborated with a consortium of organisations including WaterAid, WASH United, Skat Foundation, and End Water Poverty to develop communication materials about the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation (HRTWS) targeted at local government officials and service providers. These materials built on the handbook on the HRTWS developed by the former UN special rapporteur on the HRTWS Catarina D’Albuquerque and aim to show local government officials how they can help realise the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. Find out more and access the materials at  http://www.righttowater.info/making-rights-real/. Partner organisations in this project also collaborated on a paper titled ‘Achieving universal and equitable access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for all – practitioner perspectives and perceptions’, which was presented at the 2016 RWSN forum.

Realising the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation - From Policy to Practice

In collaboration with WaterAid, WASH United, Skat Foundation, and End Water Poverty, ISF researchers designed and delivered workshops exploring the challenges and opportunities to support the progressive realisation of human rights to water and sanitation. These workshops were delivered at various conferences including WASH Conference 2014, WEDC conference 2014, WEDC conference 2015 and WASH Conference 2016The video of the workshop delivered at WEDC conference 2015 is available here: https://www.youtube.com/user/wedclboro

human rights to water workshop

Strengthening governance arrangements for small city and town sanitation

Australian-Indonesia Infrastructure Research Awards (AIIRA) Grant

This research looks at ways to improve urban sanitation planning and governance by local governments in small towns in Sumatra. Conducted in partnership with Ministry of National Development Planning (Bappenas), Kemitraan Partnership and SNV (Indonesia).

Main project outputs:
Project brief: a selection of key themes (PDF)
Strengthening Sanitation Governance: Final report (PDF)

Support for revising BORDA’s monitoring and evaluation cycle

Through a collaborative process, ISF and BORDA are reviewing the BORDA global monitoring framework, used to assess the performance of decentralised wastewater treatment systems built through BORDA’s international programs. A quality data cycle approach was applied to ensure that BORDA’s organisational resources and investments in data collection and analysis create the best value for all involved. Engaging with BORDA regional and country staff and implementing partners, ISF developed a theory of change forming the basis of the revised monitoring framework.

Blue Pump Evaluation in Kenya and the Gambia


The project seeks to evaluate the Blue Pump, an emerging rural water supply technology in rural Africa.  In partnership with Oxfam, ISF is carrying out work in Kenya and the Gambia to assess the Blue Pump’s operational performance, document water user experiences, and apply the Technology Applicability Framework with sector stakeholders to appraise the broader factors affecting the suitability and sustainability of the Blue Pump.    

Foster, T. & McSorley, B. (2016) An Evaluation of the BluePump in Kenya and the Gambia. Institute for Sustainable Futures (University of Technology Sydney) & Oxfam 
Foster T, McSorley B, Willetts J (2016) Preliminary results from an evaluation of the Blue Pump in Turkana, Kenya, 7th RWSN Forum “Water for Everyone”, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 29 Nov 2016 - 02 Dec 2016.
blue water pump

Rural Water Entrepreneurs: Prevalence, Predictors and Prospects

This project investigates the role and impact of market-based approaches to rural water service delivery in Asia and Africa. Based on extensive field work in three countries, the research will evaluate the prevalence, success factors, motivations and sustainability implications of rural water entrepreneurs. In doing so, the work seeks to build an evidence base to assist policymakers and practitioners to facilitate more sustainable and inclusive rural water services.   
rural water entrepreneurs

Agile WASH Systems – Strength based approaches to resilience

This action research is being undertaken collaboratively with civil society organisations in the Pacific and South East AsiaThe research. It explores the role of strength based approaches (SBAs) in fostering agile and sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) systems in a developing community context. The research aims to address questions such as: how can strength based approaches build resilience into WASH services in the face of climate change? What is the role of power and agency in dynamic and sustainable WASH systems?

Local government monitoring of water and sanitation service vulnerability to climate change

This research project investigates the potential role and value of local government in Vanuatu in collecting information on the vulnerability of household- and community-based water and sanitation services to climate change for the purpose of informing future adaptation efforts. 

Equity in water safety planning

Client: World Health Organisation

Working in collaboration with The World Health Organisation (WHO) this project assesses and strengthens practice, outcomes and monitoring of Water Safety Plan in relation to gender and equity.

Winterford, K.; Ross, K.; Willetts, J. (2014) Water Safety Planning Equity Study: Synthesis Report of Four Case Studies in Asia (draft) Prepared for the World Health Organisation by the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney.

Ross K, Winterford K, Willetts J, Carrard N (2013) Water Safety Planning Equity Study: Philippines Case Study (draft), Prepared for the World Health Organisation by the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney.

Ross K, Winterford K, Willetts J. (2014) Water Safety Planning Equity Study: Nepal Case Study (draft), Prepared for the World Health Organisation by the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney.

Ross K, Winterford K, Willetts J. (2013) Water Safety Planning Equity Study: Bangladesh Case Studies (draft), Prepared for the World Health Organisation by the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney

discussing equity water safety planning

Independent review of Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (BESIK)

Client: Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)

Independent review of the major rural water supply and sanitation program in Timor-Leste, providing specialist expertise in gender equality and sustainability of WASH interventions.

Past reflections...future plans: An independent evaluation of AusAID's support to rural WASH in Timor Leste

Independent review of Indonesia World Bank Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (PAMSIMAS) and policy facility (WASPOLA)

Client: Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)

ISF led the independent review of two Australian aid initiatives working to strategically, and at large-scale, address access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

Third Water and Sanitation for Low Income Communities Project (PAMSIMAS) and the Water Supply and Sanitation Policy Formulation and Action Planning (WASPOLA) Facility

water tank

Sustainable service delivery in Timor-Leste

Client: Australian aid program Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (BESIK)

This research provided recommendations for the institutional reorientation of Timor Leste’s rural water supply sector from an infrastructure focus to a service delivery approach able to provide on-going sustainable services to rural populations.

A service delivery approach for rural water supply in Timor-Leste:Institutional options and strategy

Legal and institutional arrangements for urban sanitation and hygiene in Bhutan

This review explores the legal and institutional frameworks guiding urban sanitation and hygiene in Bhutan. It was commissioned in April 2012 to inform the Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All in Small Towns (SSH4A in Small Towns) programme being undertaken by SNV Bhutan and the Ministry of Works and Human Settlements (MoWHS). This review is the product of a desktop review and consultations with key informants to assess the policy, legal and institutional arrangements for urban sanitation and hygiene in Bhutan, with a particular focus on the situation in smaller urban centres. View/download report

water entrepreneur Bhutan

Supporting the poor to access sanitation in Bokeo, Laos

Client: Plan Laos and Plan Australia

This research focused on how to ensure the poorest members of rural communities in the province of Bokeo, Laos are supported to gain access sanitation through an appropriate 'smart' subsidies approach.

Supporting the poor to access sanitation in Bokeo Province, Laos

WASH access and indicators tool (2011)

Collates information from a range of global databases for 52 countries. This Excel tool summarises WASH global data including UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Program data by country and includes a function to rank countries for different datasets.

WASH sector briefing papers (2011)

These briefing papers for 20 countries provide baseline information about the current situation and sector trends including access, health, governance, climate change and water resources and sector monitoring. Click on the country names below to access the relevant briefing paper:

AngolaKiribatiPapua New GuineaTimor Leste
BangladeshLao PDRSamoaVanuatu
BurmaMalawiSolomon IslandsVietnam
CambodiaMozambiqueSouth AfricaZambia
IndonesiaNepalSri Lanka



WASH access and indicator maps

Collate information about 52 countries from a range of global databases in a series of regional maps. These maps show WASH global data in various combinations by region (Africa, South Asia and Middle East, Southeast Asia, Pacific) including UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Program data.

Climate Adaptation through Sustainable Urban Development, Can Tho Case Study

Client: CSIRO
As a contribution to the CSIRO AusAid Research for Development Alliance case study, this research sought to discover feasible strategies or options for a sustainable water system for Can Tho City to cope with the current problems resulting from high rates of urbanisation, population increase and looming climate change.

Poverty Dimensions of Water and Sanitation Services and Climate Vulnerability in Can Tho City.

water canal behind houses

WASH Conference 2011 and Sanitation and Water Conference 2008

Institute researchers co-organised both international conferences with the Australian WASH Reference Group, the International Water Centre and AusAID, and led authorship of the synthesis reports from these two AusAID supported conferences.

WASH Conference 2011 report, Brisbane Australia: Towards sustainability in water, sanitation and hygiene.

WASH Conference 2008 report, Meeting the Sanitation and Water Challenge in South-East Asia and the Pacific, Synthesis report on the Sanitation and Water Conference 2008.

Working effectively with women and men in WASH

Australian Development Research Award

In partnership with the International Women’s Development Agency, Live & Learn Environmental Education Fiji and World Vision Vanuatu, ISF produced a set of guidance materials on how to incorporate gender into WASH initiatives, and to assist practitioners to understand what positive gender outcomes 'look like'.

To access these materials go to www.genderinpacificwash.info.

Inclusive WASH community of practice

In partnership with the International Women’s Development Agency, ISF led the gender and WASH stream of this Australian WASH Reference group initiative, which offers live webinars and interactive discussion between practitioners.
Read more about inclusive WASH at inclusivewash.org.au.

Investigating the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of sanitation options for Can Tho, Vietnam

Client: AusAID

This study assessed the costs and sustainability aspects of sanitation options for a peri-urban area in Can Tho, Vietnam and was awarded the 2011 International Water Association (IWA) Project Innovation Award for applied sanitation research in a developing country context.

Cost effectiveness and sustainability of sanitation options: A case study of South Can Tho - Technical Report

Cost-effectiveness analysis as a methodology to compare sanitation options in peri-urban Can Tho, Vietnam

Modelling costs for water and sanitation infrastructure: Comparing sanitation options for Can Tho, Vietnam

Independent evaluation of the Civil Society WASH Fund, 2009-2012

Client: AusAID

ISF led two independent reviews of this large-scale program funding civil society organisations in Asia, Pacific and Africa to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene in poor communities. 

Addressing the Enabling Environment for WASH Services: A Learning Paper

Civil Society Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Fund - Independent progress report

Civil Society Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Fund - Independent completion review

woman at tap

Promoting learning in civil society WASH program

Client: AusAID

ISF worked with WaterAid to design, deliver and document three learning events for the AusAID Civil Society WASH Fund 2010-2011that brought together more than 100 practitioners from 21 countries to share experiences and build expertise on sustainable WASH. The following set of documents provides a snapshot of learning event discussions. The documents are organised around themes that emerged during the learning events, and selected participant stories provide a taste of the many experiences shared through poster presentations and discussions. Stories presented demonstrate the breadth of work being done, lessons being learnt and many of the strengths of CSO WASH work.

Civil Society WASH Learning Fund - Introduction

Learning for effective WASH

WASH in challenging urban environments

WASH in Pacific Island communities

Menstrual hygiene management

Strengthening government

Inclusive WASH – advancing equity and supporting the most vulnerable

Focus on sanitation and hygiene

Child health and WASH investment in PNG

Client: WaterAID

This research identified the links between WASH and child health in PNG, and how these demonstrate a critical need for increased investment in WASH.

Download the report

NGO Partnerships in the WASH sector

Together with the International Water Centre, ISF investigated NGO partnerships, capacity development and state/local government engagement in the WASH sector to inform planning and investment through AusAID’s Water and Sanitation Initiative. 

NGO partnerships and capacity development in the water sanitation and hygiene sector.

View more ISF international development projects