Neil Palmer/IWMI

Innovative sanitation approaches

Over half of the human population lives without safely administered sanitation services, or any facilities whatsoever. Wastewater poses another challenge, as most of it is not adequately treated. Reports and studies, including the UN 2030 SDG Agenda, propose various solutions for sanitation access and wastewater control. The wastewater sector is already shifting away from the “treatment for disposal” model to one of “treatment for reuse.”

This tool provides innovative approaches to sanitation that consider more service-oriented models, and highlights potential societal benefits to attract investments from new sectors.  

Beyond health objectives, this tool contributes to a strategic conversation on sanitation that considers multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ultimately, the 2030 Agenda will link several goals to provide a sustainable development that will allow for new investments.

Below are key takeaways from the report highlighting the current approaches to sanitation and wastewater management, useful to future researchers and policy makers. 


Approaches Reviewed 

Though researchers are already exploring opportunities for on-site sanitation, several obstacles pose a threat to financing this system. And while technologies aimed at improving on-site wastewater treatment are developed, scaling is a major challenge. Policy makers continue to offer solutions and policies that do not take into account larger implications related to food, energy and water security, and environmental sustainability.

A decentralized system, which operates on a neighborhood or urban sector level, can offer services to more sectors of society and aid poorer households. They require shorter implementation timelines and lower operating costs. But unlike centralized systems, decentralized approaches are harder to finance and demand emphasis on engagement among local stakeholders. To remain sustainable, this system demands community support and buy-in.



Integrated approaches can address several challenges at once, attacking sanitation issues along with economic, environmental, social, and health-related concerns.

While new technology is available, the sanitation sector must continue to work towards scaling up, which includes finding ways to finance these products and services.

Finally, seeking investments from new sectors will promote benefits across sectors and issues and connect multiple SDGs.