Water Portal / Rainwater Harvesting / WASH Environmental Sustainability Assessment
In both rural and urban contexts, the quality of life of local communities largely depends on a functioning ecosystem. Water, land and other resources are all part of a single ecosystem, whose components cannot be dealt with separately. WASH interventions always affect the ecosystem and vice versa. This is why it is important to make your WASH project environmentally sustainable.
How do I make my WASH project environmentally sustainable?
These three steps will provide information on how you can make your WASH project environmentally more sustainable. We are working on an assessment tool that will be added at a later stage.
Step I: Assess
WASH projects require a thorough assessment of the catchment and the people living in it. Map the catchment and all issues related to water resources, waste flows, ecosystem services, diseases and the upstream-downstream connection between communities. Gather data on ecosystem services, climate change effects, water recharge and retention potential, community-ecosystem relationship, and biodiversity. Ask yourself questions such as: Where does the water in my well flow from and where does the waste from my latrine go? What are the characteristics of the local ecosystem? Which water resources and waste flows are present in the area? And, is there a prevalence of water-borne diseases in the area?
Step II: Analyse
Once you have mapped your area, its resources and people’s needs, map the location and functioning of current WASH services. Think about toilets, waste collection systems or water supply systems. What types of WASH services are currently used? How do people make use of these services? Once you have analysed the current WASH services, ask yourself how, where and why the ecosystem is currently affected by these WASH services. Is the environment over-exploited and are water sources depleting? Could you make more effective use of resources? Analysing this helps you to improve the environmental sustainability of the WASH services.
Step III: Understand and Optimise
Assessing the area and analysing the functioning of current WASH services not only provides you with information on how to optimise these WASH services, it also shows you how to create synergy between people and the ecosystem. This supports you in making the most effective use of the resources available in the area, whilst at the same time ensuring more sustainable access to these resources. Interesting activities include integrating rainwater harvesting technologies, wetland restoration and reforestation. Of course, different solutions can complement one another to achieve a more environmentally sustainable WASH project.
Read some valuable, practical recommendations on catchment-based approaches to Water Resource Management: Recommendations for Practitioners by Practitioners on Catchment-Based Approaches to Water Resources Management (CB WRM)
TIPS & TRICKS FOR INCORPORATING ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IN YOUR WASH PROJECT:
- Right from the start, take into account the potential environmental implications for WASH services and livelihoods in your project design.
- Always incorporate all relevant actors and their needs in the decision-making, planning and implementation process. And of course, environmental actors should always be part of this process.
- Consider the natural environment as an interlinked system. This includes the WASH project location and its surrounding villages, both up and downstream.
- Incorporate ecosystem services and their value (monetized and non-monetized). To do so, you need to know all about the availability of natural land and water resources and current waste flows in the area.
- Remain flexible to change directions within your WASH project planning. This way, you can make sure your solutions will still work if the world around you changes.
Approaches to Make WASH Environmentally Sustainable
|Ecosystem Restoration||A range of ecosystem restoration measures can be taken to support WASH services and livelihoods:
Combining water and land management
Addressing pollution Implement point-source pollution treatment and prevention plans. For example replace leaky latrines and strategically relocate them to avoid any contamination of clean water sources. Develop financial, legal and institutional incentives for non-point source pollution prevention, for example Payment for Ecosystems
Conserving biodiversity Maintain or restore habitats of (freshwater) species by allocating ‘recovery’ places within the ecosystem - meaning agreed spaces with no human interaction where fauna can mate, breed and forage. Introduce vegetation and species that are sympathetic to the water quality and quantity.
|Rain Water Harvesting: Recharge, Retention, Reuse||Recharge, Retain, Reuse (3R) of rainwater is one sustainable and environmentally friendly way to provide people with water. 3R allows you to use the catchment itself as a buffer to store water without having to apply expensive and environmentally unfriendly technical solutions. 3R stands for the three elements required to store, manage and utilise water:
Learn more about 3R in the online booklet Be Buffered.
|Reduce, Reuse, Recycle of Waste (Flows)||Incorporating Reduce, Reuse and Recycle practices in your WASH project can help you to:
A model called Integrated Sustainable Waste Management (ISWM) can help you to turn your Reduce, Re-use and Recycle ideas into practice. What does ISWM do?
|Low Cost, Low Maintenance and Environmentally Friendly Technologies||When dealing with water and sanitation, a wide range of technologies are at hand. To choose the right technology, you need to take into account the outcome of your landscape assessment. Depending on this outcome, a combination of natural and man-made solutions can be selected. At the same time, it is important to consider the costs, maintenance requirements and environmental friendliness of the technologies. Choosing sustainable drinking water and sanitation technologies requires awareness on the following five aspects:
The WaterCompass can help you further with making informed decisions on low cost, low maintenance and environmental friendly water methods for your project. It comprises more than 70 sustainable technologies.
- RAIN. WASH and the Environment. October 2014.