22 June 2023

UN recognises social enterprise as a catalyst for safe drinking water

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The UN’s latest report on water focuses on partnerships and cooperation. Working together across sectors is essential to accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal for water and sanitation (SDG 6), and was a focus of the UN Water Conference in March.

The World Water Development report features a new partnership approach to scaling up sustainable rural water services informed by Smith School research on professionalised maintenance service provision and results-based funding.

The Uptime Catalyst Facility, created in 2020, incentivises and enables professionalised rural water service operators to maximise ‘uptime’ of rural water services through performance-based contracts and blended finance. In 2023, Uptime contracts are ensuring reliable water services for over 4 million people in 12 countries. The REACH/RWSN global diagnostic study demonstrates how 100 million rural people could be supplied safe drinking water by 2030.

Prof Rob Hope, Director of the Water Programme and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, says: “Results-based funding is providing evidence of how professional service providers can sustain drinking water services at a cost of less than USD1 per person per year. Policy and practice is increasingly questioning loans and grants that build infrastructure but fails to guarantee drinking water services for vulnerable people.”