Research for action: Water, Behaviour Change and Environmental Sanitation: Sustainable Solutions to Research, Knowledge and Professionalization (WABES)

To answer the global challenge of improving access to safe water and adequate sanitation, essential for poverty reduction, health, economic development and a life in dignity, it is necessary to work at two levels: developing and using appropriate technology and techniques, but also working on the institutional frameworks and human capacities. To this aim, SDC has decided to partner with a Swiss Research Institute, long-term collaborator well recognised internationally.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Tertiary education
Water sanitation
Water supply
01.02.2018 - 31.07.2022
CHF  2’600’000
Background Currently, close to 663 million people still lack access to safe drinking water, and over 4,5 billion still lack access to adequate sanitation. The inequalities in terms of access are more drastic for the urban marginalised and the rural poor, resulting from economic and geographic obstacles harder to overcome. To reach the goals set under the SDGs, and to support life in dignity and health, more efforts and innovative solutions need to be provided to reach those still forgotten by development.
Objectives Improvement of living standards of the poor through improved access to safe drinking water and integrated sanitation system solutions that respond to the needs and capabilities of the target population and that can be fostered and implemented by local governmental or private stakeholders in the WASH sector.
Target groups

The main target groups are :
 a) local stakeholder groups (including local authorities and beneficiaries) with their specific local needs and adaptations ;

 b) water practitioners, decision makers, and policy makers;

 c) project officers and decision makers within national and international development agencies.

Medium-term outcomes Outcome 1: Policy makers and development practitioners have access to and engage with the new material of quality evidence to improve sustainable access to safe water for the marginalised and rural poor.

Outcome 2: Policy makers and development practitioners have access to and engage with the new material of quality evidence to improve access to environmental sanitation, considering concepts of resource recovery and circular economy for the marginalised and poor communities.

Outcome 3: Knowledge and training content in WASH - based on research evidence – is used and applied in practice by students and development practitioners.

Expected results:  

The flagship research products and outputs are:

  • Technical and management solutions for safe water in rural and small town settings at point-of-distribution and point-of-collection
  • An expanded geostatistical modelling tool (developed under the prior project for arsenic and fluoride), applicable to model other more frequent groundwater contaminants ;
  • Guidelines on dewatering of faecal sludge in dense urban areas in developing country cities ;
  • Planning and programming solutions for small and secondary towns
  • A toolbox of behaviour change techniques that can promote habit development and psychological ownership related to WASH ;
  • “Zero-waste management” solutions for schools, replicable to small communities ;
  • Innovative educational methods.

Results from previous phases:   This project is born from the need to restructure and merge various prior interventions financed by GPW.  Under those prior projects, Eawag has accelerated change through awareness of national and local governments on the need to move beyond taps and toilets, testing several integrated and flexible ways to provide sustainable services to the poor. To name a few, previous activities have led to: a notable increase in action for improving faecal sludge management; setting on the national agenda the problem of arsenic in Pakistan’s groundwater; developing a successful tool for the evaluation of behaviour change interventions; several publications and four MOOCs now available online.

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
Private sector
Swiss Academic and Research Institution
  • Foreign private sector North

Coordination with other projects and actors Eawag benefits from a large network of research partners (> 40 organisations) in the South, on which they will lean on and/or collaborate with.
Specific links through: involvement in the Resource Recovery and Safe Reuse (RRR) project; synergy with the Humanitarian Aid through Eawag’s backstopping mandate.
Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    2’600’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    2’657’212 Total project since first phase Swiss budget CHF   2 Budget inclusive project partner CHF   8’000’000