Water & Sanitation

Access to clean water – essential to human life – is at the core of any development work. Almost 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion lack adequate sanitation. As much progress as we have made, we know we can do better. 

To address both issues, IRD responds to crises with emergency water supplies and sanitation facilities, while implementing large- and small-scale infrastructure development projects that build community resiliency to long-term water supply and sanitation challenges.

Whether gathering water from urban rooftops in Zimbabwe, restoring irrigation canals in Afghanistan, bringing gender-segregated latrines to accomodate girls attending school in Laos, digging wells and providing hand pumps in rural Mozambique, rehabilitating water supply and sewage systems in Georgia and Ukraine, or constructing major new water systems in the West Bank & Gaza, IRD works with one goal in mind: to provide safe, clean water to communities, and help them better manage this resource for the long term.

As part of our efforts to build awareness around the water and sanitation needs worldwide, IRD marks our progress with this Flickr photo set for World Water Day 2013 - keeping in mind that there's much more work to be done. Keep on top of other efforts to raise awareness through our blog, Facebook, or Twitter feeds.

IRD develops a unique response to each situation using a wide variety of tools and in collaboration with partners and stakeholders at every level. We are helping provide safe, clean water to thousands of communities by building water transmission mains, distribution networks, treatment plants, reservoirs, pumping stations, and water towers. We also work with farmers to improve the efficiency of their water collection and use. And we work with community-level organizations and individuals to adopt appropriate and efficient technologies, such as solar disinfection, rooftop rainwater harvesting, and “conservation agriculture” methods.

Responding to Crises
In 2009, over 1 million people fled their homes in northern Pakistan, pushed out by conflict. With USAID funding, IRD provided emergency water and sanitation for displaced persons and organized hygiene committees for 30,000 people staying in spontaneous settlements. After the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, IRD immediately sent emergency water and sanitation supplies. IRD subsequently shipped and distributed more than $16 million worth of donated relief commodities, including anti-diarrheal medicines, oral rehydration salts, and water purifiers.O

ur work doesn’t end with relief, however. For example, in Indonesia’s Aceh province, emergency projects after the 2004 tsunami included the rehabilitation of water and sanitation systems and other activities that benefited nearly 350,000 people. These were followed by longer term interventions to rehabilitate water treatment systems and build capacity among local communities to maintain the rehabilitated systems.

Within days of Mozambique’s 2008 flood disaster, IRD sent emergency teams to affected districts, established water treatment stations, and began distributing hygiene supplies. Later, IRD implemented programs for long-term resettlement by drilling boreholes and digging latrines. And in Kosovo, IRD implemented a three-year USAID-funded program to install, rehabilitate, expand, and upgrade water and sewage systems in four of the country’s poorest municipalities.

Applying Appropriate Technology
Poor hygiene and sanitation have huge impacts on public health. We have learned that hand washing alone can cut water-related deaths by 45 percent, and that diarrhea, most often caused by waterborne contaminants, is the second leading cause of death among young children globally.

Large-scale water treatment plants may not be practical in all environments, and cheaper small-scale solutions may also be too expensive for some rural or hard-to-reach areas. In rural Laos, Mozambique, and Sri Lanka, IRD promotes the use of solar disinfection (SODIS), which makes use of readily available plastic bottles and the power of the sun to kill the pathogens that cause diarrhea and other waterborne illnesses. Placing a bottle of water in the full sun for six hours can reduce the incidence of diarrhea by 30 to 80 percent.

In Zimbabwe, where poorly maintained infrastructure has led to water leakage and seepage of sewage into the water supply, IRD is implementing a rooftop rainwater harvesting program. This program helps address critical water supply problems in high population-density areas of the country’s capital. The program has benefited 1,350 households and 7,500 students in 15 schools and continues to expand.

In Mozambique and Swaziland, IRD is helping communities to increase farm yields and incomes through improved water catchment, including runoff farming and water harvesting, repaired water points using appropriate pump technology, and conservation agriculture and livestock development techniques. We have trained farmers to plant drought-resistant soil-improving crops, establish kitchen gardens, and improve their access to markets.

Large-Scale Infrastructure Development
Infrastructure is at the core of any long-term development solution. IRD’s infrastructure programs are helping to rehabilitate or rebuild water supply networks and drainage systems across the world. In Georgia, IRD has improved the potable water supply by installing a new water reservoir and high-capacity pump and rehabilitating 17 existing artesian wells. In Ukraine’s Crimea region, IRD has rehabilitated flooding wells, constructed water-lifting stations, built a pumping plant, and established a water supply for villages and public facilities.

Our staff has the expertise to conduct feasibility studies, engineering design and analysis, construction contracting and management, financial management and analysis, and site supervision (including safety and environmental compliance). We are also expert in listening to stakeholders, helping communities prioritize their needs, and providing training and other support to ensure newly constructed or rehabilitated facilities will be used and maintained properly for the long term.

IRD is committed to working with vulnerable populations around the world for as long as is necessary to make sure they gain, and maintain, access to safe water and sanitation. Our technical expertise, strong partnerships, and community-based approaches have achieved notable successes, and we will continue to focus on this critical global need for as long as necessary.


Bringing Clean Water to Kosovo

The Small Infrastructure for Water and Sanitation (SIWS) Program in Kosovo works in... more

Building Resiliency in the Horn of Africa

IRD has been responding to the drought crisis in the Somali region of the Horn of A... more

Cameroon UNHCR 2013

An estimated 86,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) reside in the... more

Child Survival in Cambodia

Funded by USAID’s Global Health bureau, IRD’s Child Survival and Health program use... more

Community-Based Solar Disinfection Program

Access to clean and safe drinking water is a huge challenge for much of the world’s... more

Conservation Agriculture in Swaziland

Much of southern Africa is caught in a cycle of drought and flooding, making it dif... more

Emergency Food Aid in Chad

In June 2005, IRD completed Emergency Food-for-Work and Agricultural Assistance Ini... more

Improving Infrastructure in the West Bank

IRD is improving the lives of Palestinians by repairing and constructing key roads,... more

Improving the Health of Vulnerable Communities in Rural Yemen

The health of 30,000 people in vulnerable communities in the Hodeidah Governorate o... more

Increased Access to Potable Water & Improved Hygiene Practices in Yemen

With an estimated 3 million people lacking good-quality WASH facilities and service... more

Preventing Cholera in Coastal Mozambique

    Mozambique is one of the most climatically vulnerable countries in South... more

Reducing Vulnerability to Drought, Cyclones & Climate Change in Mozambique

For over a decade, Mozambique’s Inhambane province has experienced severe cyclones... more

Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting in Zimbabwe

Access to safe water remains a challenge to most people in Zimbabwe and this expose... more

SCIP Program in Southern Mozambique

While Mozambique has successfully rebounded from years of civil war, many of its pe... more