Water For People

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What We Do


Everyone, Forever

We live in a world of quick fixes and temporary solutions, always ready to get in and get out, and move to the next task at hand. But at Water For People, we’re in it for the long haul, and we’re taking big steps to solve one of the world’s largest crises—permanently.

Our goal is simple: water for Everyone, Forever.

The road to permanent water coverage for Everyone Forever is challenging, but the outcomes are easy to root for—more children are in school, more individuals are employed, more families are healthy and thriving, and more communities are collaborating and growing. From there, the impact continues to ripple out on a national and global scale. If we invest more and work more now to create sustainable and replicable water and sanitation infrastructure, we can focus more on our futures…our forever.

We’re thinking and acting beyond the tools and the toilets, and beyond today. We are building a foundation for the future, through Everyone, Forever.

Case Studies

Read a case study with Everyone, Forever in action in Honduras and Malawi.

Download PDF

Here’s how we’re doing it:

  • Water For People collaborates with IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) to target districts in defined geographic regions for an Everyone, Forever program.
  • Success is defined as every household, every school, and every public health facility/clinic in those regions having access to improved water and sanitation services. 
  • Financial, physical, and operational investments are made by local and national governments, community residents, and other organizations to address current and future challenges of water systems and services. Eventually, target communities won’t need support from an international water agency ever again.
  • Development agencies monitor field results for at least 10 years, but the monitoring capacity and responsibility are firmly embedded within communities and government. Data and results are publicly available to everyone.
  • Everyone Forever programming grows from full coverage at district levels to national level and beyond, freeing countries from water and sanitation aid dependency.

We're making a difference for EVERYONE

Every family, every school, and every clinic. Forever.

Water For People brings together local entrepreneurs, civil society, governments, and communities to establish creative, collaborative solutions that allow people to build and maintain their own reliable safe water systems. Empowering everyone transforms people’s lives by improving health and economic productivity to end the cycle of poverty.

FLOW stands for Field Level Operations Watch. It’s a system to collect, manage, analyze, and display geographically-referenced monitoring and evaluation data. It has been under development for several years with significant field implementations already undertaken. To date, FLOW has been used mainly to track the condition of water points such as wells and pumps. But it could be used to monitor any kind of local infrastructure.

Akvo FLOW brings together three elements:

  1. Handheld data collection: The FLOW Field Survey application runs on Android phones and devices with integrated GPS, camera, and custom adaptive surveys.
  2. A web-based dashboard where users manage and analyze FLOW surveys and data.
  3. Visual map-based reporting tools displayed in Google Maps and Google Earth.

Water For People and Akvo have partnered to address the monitoring gap in the development sector utilizing a system now called Akvo FLOW, which has the potential to transform water and sanitation development work worldwide by offering organizations an integrated way to collect, analyze and report monitoring data regarding the condition of water and sanitation projects. As phone networks and internet connections now penetrate affordably into most of the poorest regions of the world, even $80 phone handsets can capture geographically tagged information including photos and video.


Why was FLOW built?

The research and development of FLOW began in 2010 by Water For People, addressing the need to replace cumbersome paper-based monitoring surveys and the delay in manually compiling the information. The system was designed to provide accountability and transparency to donors and the public through fast data collection, survey flexibility, analytical tools for data-driven decision making, and map-based reporting of results.

Last year, Water For People issued a Request for Information (RFI) to identify a partner to continue enhancement of FLOW. The partner required a keen understanding of development work throughout the world, have the capabilities to continue developing FLOW, and have the ability to build out and support a large network of partners to use FLOW as an open source platform. Akvo had planned to expand their work beyond its core product, Akvo Really Simple Reporting, and develop a mobile phone-based monitoring and evaluation tool for its growing network of partners.

Where has FLOW been used?

Since first deploying in 2010, FLOW has been used around the world in 17 countries for monitoring. Water For People has utilized FLOW for ongoing monitoring across its country programs. Another prominent activity has been the mapping of 10,000 water points in Liberia in 2011 by WSP, the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank. The primary applications of FLOW so far have been in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, but other projects outside the sector have demonstrated its flexibility and potential for diverse applications.

Akvo FLOW

Reimagine Reporting

On this platform, you'll find information, data, metrics and stories about our work toward ensuring that Everyone has water that lasts Forever in 30 districts around the world.

Reporting Portal

Sustainable Sanitation

  • Gulper (for pumping poo out of latrines).
  • Sanitation market vendor.
  • Painted bathroom in Bolivia.

The Sanitation Problem

Sanitation means separating and keeping humans separated from their waste. Without access to a latrine or toilet to do this, inadequate sanitation leads to poor environmental hygiene conditions, disease, and death. Yet, official statistics say 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation. And it is becoming more widely thought that this number is lowballed especially when considering the adverse effects inadequate sanitation conditions have on the social, economic, and environmental situation in an area.

Conventional development approaches allocate foreign aid to construct more latrines by providing them at no cost (fully subsidized). We know this won’t ensure lasting results. While this may have an impact on short-term sanitation coverage, latrines given to families by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) create only one thing in the long-term: a dependency on that NGO to always provide support.

The Solution: Access to Sanitation, Forever

Water For People, and a growing host of others, believe that this extraordinarily slow progress can be accelerated and that greater success can be achieved by reorienting our work from latrine construction to facilitating sanitation services market system development.

This market approach is fundamentally different from charitable or international development practice. For decades, individual households or communities, and in recent years entrepreneurs, have been the target and focus of sanitation programs. The goal for current programming is not a beneficiary, but a customer. Work is done to support and strengthen budding or on-going local and national efforts to mature sanitation market systems and their enabling environments. In this way, service provision is not a one-off transaction; instead, the market system, made up of flourishing and competitive sanitation-related businesses, becomes functional to provide services and respond to customers’ needs over time (when they are ready to buy), and which is resilient to population growth and change. This is sustainable sanitation — having access to services Forever.

Water For People is modeling this new approach with the goal that none of our country programs will be directly subsidizing latrine construction or the purchase of any sanitation-related products and/or services by 2013. While the implementation differs in each country and context, there are basic principles, which we adhere to:

Market Analysis
We find the business opportunities and weaknesses within the sanitation supply (value) chain.
Customer Satisfaction
We ask how desirable products and services that have many design options based on what the customer wants can be achieved.
New Role and Different Partners
We seek out business development firms, cooperatives, community water boards, and micro-finance institutions partners that have the capacity and a profit motivated interest to grow their involvement in sanitation.
Bringing Businesses Into sanitation
We design our programs with the goal of exponentially increasing the number of businesses and entrepreneurs involved in sanitation-related activities.
Try Something New and Take Risks
We encourage our staff and partners to take calculated risks to develop the sanitation market with the understanding that not all efforts will be successful; this allows us to learn and find models that work.
Shared Measurement Systems
We define success by customers reached and services delivered, margin (income vs. expenditure) of sanitation services businesses, leveraged financing into market development, and the number of new jobs created.

Reaching Everyone with Sanitation

As Water For People facilitates and strengthens emerging market systems, the range of goods offered can expand, diversify, and be sustained in the long term because the local private sector — a more sustainable stakeholder than an NGO — is driving the process forward. If the proper market incentives are in place, households can acquire products and services they want at a reasonable price, and the private sector does what it does in any healthy market: it plays the leading role in maintaining its current customer base as well as bringing in new customers.

The argument can be made that markets will not always reach everyone, but Water For People monitors market systems to watch who is reached over time. With this knowledge, we are able to mitigate bottlenecks and facilitate processes by which even the most poor and vulnerable — Everyone — can benefit from sanitation market development.

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Why the conventional approach will never work:

The six great tragedies of subsidized latrines


  1. Householders don't particularly like them, even though they were free; they are not regarded as desirable.
  2. The permanence of the solution is not considered; the latrines are usually designed so they cannot be moved or emptied making it difficult for the householder to continue to use the latrine after the pit is full.
  3. Project-based approaches ensure that every household in an area is given a latrine for free, even when some families could easily afford to pay for one themselves.
  4. Giving away latrines or latrine components removes the responsibility for latrine provision from the household to the nonprofit organization or government. This creates a dependency which is impossible to finance in the long or medium term.
  5. There is no focus on building viable supply chains or pit emptying services so even if a householder desired to upgrade or self-finance the building of a latrine, they do not have a specialist private sector organization to turn to.
  6. Subsidies turn latrine acquisition into a lottery where only the lucky households in the lucky nonprofit organization selected areas obtain a free latrine.
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How We're Implementing Sustainable Sanitation

In our Sustainable Sanitation program, Water For People acts as a facilitator, far removed from the process of actual service delivery, and we focus our efforts on the development of the sanitation services market. We believe that working in the background of the process is critical for the success, scale, and sustainability of the program.

The Sustainable Sanitation program is currently implementing two business models—latrine construction and pit emptying. In some countries, sanitation businesses are receiving business support and training from business development firms hired by Water For People, with the goal of expanding these businesses and reaching more customers with affordable sanitation products (latrine construction) and services (pit emptying). This includes helping with developing business plans, understanding income and expenditures, marketing and branding support, as well as furthering applications for loans to make new investments and expand their businesses.

Early analysis of the Sustainable Sanitation program indicates that there are not enough businesses entering the sanitation market. In response, the business development firms Water For People has engaged are now looking at alternative approaches to attract more businesses into the sanitation services market. These include developing Business in Sanitation (BIS) kits that will help entice new business into sanitation through clever marketing and provide step-by-step instructions for developing a sanitation business. With this assistance, entrepreneurs and businesses who already have some basic capacity are able to enter the market without direct business development support. Additionally, developing new financing products for both businesses and households is another strategy being explored to enable more businesses to enter the sanitation market.

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