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Low-cost urban water supply and sanitation systems

This consortium of researchers based in Kenya, Uganda, Senegal and the UK is working on designing a means for low-cost water and sanitation systems for use in Africa.

Members of the AfriWatSan consortium

Towns and cities in Sub-Saharan Africa are growing at a faster rate than any other region in the world. Efforts to improve access to safe water in rapidly urbanising areas commonly target groundwater on account of its resilience to climate variability and generally safe quality that avoids the high costs of treatment associated with water drawn from rivers and lakes

AfriWatSan consortium

Lay summary

Reducing poverty in African cities by expanding the provision of safe water and sanitation depends upon using shallow subsurface water as both a source of freshwater and receptacle of human sewage. 

The aim of this project is to tackle a fundamental water and sanitation challenge: sustaining low-cost water supply and sanitation systems in Africa. It is the first multi-scale analysis (small town-city-megacity) of urban groundwater and sanitation and its links to human health in sub-Saharan Africa.

Proposed benefits to researchers and institutions

  • Establishment of long-term relationships with stakeholder institutions, both public and private sectors, including the co-production of evidence-based policy
  • Links to international scientific programmes such as the African Academy of Sciences capacity-building initiative in Water and Sanitation, UPGro (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor), and the International Association of Hydrogeologists' Urban Groundwater Network will improve university research rankings and attract further funding
  • Strengthening cross-disciplinary research and teaching programmes in hydrogeology, water supply, sanitation and public health
  • Co-production of scientific knowledge and capacity strengthening of immense practical importance to the development of basic science across a range of disciplines
  • Sustained improvements in the provision of equipment and infrastructure for field and laboratory-based research in hydrology, civil engineering and public health

Proposed benefits of research to society

  • The ability to better provide low-cost water supplies and sanitation services in African cities
  • Help to alleviate poverty through access to safe water and sanitation in rapidly urbanising areas to realise UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #6, universal and equitable access to safe water and sanitation for all by 2030, and allied SDGs #1 (no poverty), #3 (good health and well-being), #5 (gender equality), and #11 (sustainable cities and communities)
  • Beyond African cities, the research could provide the answer to vital questions surrounding maximum population densities under which low-cost water supply and sanitation systems can continue to provide safe water and adequately contain waste, of critical importance to emergency-relief agencies operating refugee and IDP camps
  • New ways to protect and manage urban groundwater

Lead researchers in this consortium

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