Swiss communes improve access to water in countries of the South

Project completed
Residents of Nouakchott dig a long straight trench in a sandy street to lay a section of the 50 kilometres of new water pipes in the Mauritanian capital, while a young girl is looking on from the edge of the pavement.
As a result of the partnership between Lausanne and Nouakchott, the water distribution network of Mauritania's capital city has been extended by 50 kilometres. © City of Lausanne Water Resources Department © Service de l’eau de la ville de Lausanne

Solidarit’eau suisse is helping fund projects to improve access to clean drinking water in developing countries. Initiated by the SDC, this internet platform enables communes and other local authorities in Switzerland to consult the list of projects and, if they want to become more involved, make contact with partners abroad.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Drinking water and basic sanitation (WASH) (til 2016)
Water supply
01.01.2016 - 31.10.2019
CHF 710'000

Recognised since 2010 as a human right, access to good-quality water and sanitation facilities is essential in order to meet basic human needs. Over the last 25 years, the proportion of the world's population that has gained access to a satisfactory supply of drinking water has increased from 76% to 91%. Despite this enormous progress, about 2.4 billion people, i.e. one in every three, are still without sanitation facilities, and 2 billion of them do not have sufficient clean water. This situation is causing many public health and hygiene problems.

Solidarit’eau suisse is helping to remedy this situation in the world's poorest regions. Swiss non-governmental organisations (NGO) present their projects on the Solidarit'eau suisse website so that partners interested in funding them can get an overall picture of the work being done, with ongoing updates. All the projects presented online have first been assessed for quality by independent experts. The NGOs responsible for implementing the projects cover all the administrative costs. This means that every franc invested by a Solidarit’eau partner in Switzerland is spent directly in helping the project beneficiaries.

Swiss solidarity

Up to 82% of Swiss water consumption is accounted for by the production of goods abroad and their importation in the form of agricultural and manufactured goods. As a wealthy country consuming foreign water supplies, Switzerland has much to gain from showing solidarity towards countries where this natural resource is scarce.

Direct contributions from Swiss communes are currently the main source of funding for Solidarit’eau suisse. Indeed, some communes have put in place innovative measures in order to make funding available. For example, 17 communes in French-speaking part of Switzerland are supporting a partnership between Lausanne and Nouakchott, with the aim of improving the water supply network in the Mauritanian capital. These Swiss communes and their water resources departments have decided to allocate to the partnership about one centime for each cubic metre of water they supply. In this way, they have already been able to raise more of 1.7 million Swiss francs.

Cooperative ventures and exchanges between cities of the North and the South

Before the project was launched in 2009, only a third of Nouakchott's inhabitants had access to water in their own homes. The rest of the population had to fetch water from tankers and other small-scale carriers who sold water at high prices. Since then, the partners of the two cities have built many sanitation facilities and installed a fifty-kilometre network of water mains.

Once the administrative authorities of the two cities had concluded the partnership agreement, water utilities set out a strategy for implementing the project. Engineers from Lausanne and Nouakchott meet several times a year to monitor the technical aspects. As well as making a financial contribution, Lausanne is therefore also active on the ground, encouraging the transfer of skills between the parties involved. Nouakchott is contributing more than 10% of the total amount for projects undertaken locally. The SDC and the Region of Ile-de-France also support this project. All the partners are agreed that this experience has been very rewarding, because their mutual involvement has not been limited to the technical aspects of water supply only.