Comprehensive approach: Investing in water and sanitation to achieve universal coverage and service sustainability

Investment in water and sanitation is fundamental for closing gaps in access to basic services. SDC held the conference “Technical Assistance, Agency Interaction, Formalization and Monitoring for Rural Water and Sanitation Services“, based on the need for the region’s countries to discuss strategic issues and good practices, contributing to the South-South and global dialogue.

In the LAC region, for many decades investment in water and sanitation in rural areas has given priority to infrastructure.  However, it is essential to invest in training and capacity-building, with a comprehensive approach to the sustainability of water and sanitation services throughout the project cycle, promoting empowerment and defining the roles and competencies of rural water and sanitation stakeholders.

“The purpose of SIRWASH is to support the countries of the region in providing quality rural services, by improving innovation environments, knowledge exchange and good public policies, strengthening each country’s management model and the capacities of service operators,” said Rosa María Alcayhuamán at the opening of the conference.

The conference had two sections: i) Technical assistance and interaction between agencies, and ii) Service operator formalisation. Below are the highlights of both sections.

Technical assistance and interaction between agencies

There were four panellists: Sara López (National Environmental Health Service, SENASA,  Paraguay), who presented Paraguay’s experience of providing technical assistance for community providers as a key pillar for community management and improving water and sanitation services; Víctor Cabrera (Ministry of Housing, Peru), who described the experience of working for over 20 years with municipal technical areas, operating units and water and sanitation boards (JASS), and highlighting the importance of promoting partnerships and taking the cultural diversity of rural Andean and Amazonian operators into account; Carolina Meneses (National Health Foundation, FUNASA, Brazil), who stressed the importance of the support given to municipal administrations for operators through a targeted National Sanitation Plan, which prioritizes capacity-building, and in closing, Fernando Romero (CONACCIÓN), who highlighted the role of local government in supporting community organizations by strengthening the capacity of operators, promoting infrastructure maintenance and  providing resources, which will impact service sustainability.

©FB Latinosan 2022

Operator Formalisation

Tania García, a specialist with ASIR-SABA-Colombia, presented the experience of formal service provision, differential schemes, and strengthening water and sanitation management in rural areas, which the ASIR-SABA project is working on in Colombia. Edgar Coronel shared Peru’s experience of formalising rural operators to professionalise rural water and sanitation services. Karina Ordóñez and José Villarroel, specialists at Bolivia’s drinking water and sanitation regulator, presented the differentiated pilot experience of regularising water and sanitation service providers (EPSAS) while at the same time surveying data for IT platforms, with the aim of developing a new way of registering the EPSAS to grant them service provision rights. Finally, Otaçiana Ribeiro and Elder Cortes, specialists at Brazil’s Comprehensive Sanitation System (SISAR), presented an experience in which international cooperation, sub-national water companies and SISAR work in an alliance for water and sanitation service sustainability through the association of small rural operators, a major challenge for the improvement of water and sanitation services.

At the end of this section, Nathalie Seguin from Sanitation and Water for All reflected on the experiences presented, highlighting that: i) it is important for government to recognise community organisations in the law and to regulate them; ii) given the role of these organizations, it is key to allocate a budget for strengthening their capacities, and to ensure their participation in decision-making and water planning at the municipal level; iii) encouraging community organizations to discuss their experiences helps them to strengthen and replicate these and leads to behavioural change; iv) that political will at the municipal level and capacity building for its officials is very important; v) that it is essential to consider the communities’ own needs and opt for appropriate, decentralized technologies that fit the realities of these communities; and vi) that it is crucial to have a database of sanitation operators to help develop associations. 

©FB Latinosan 2022


The event was held on 13 October during the VI Latin American Sanitation Conference (Latinosan 2022). The conference was organized by the Inter-American Development Bank and Swiss Cooperation (SDC), as part of the SIRWASH Program (Sustainable and Innovative Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services).

Useful links:
Latinosan website
FS Sirwash – IDB (esp)



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