Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Access to clean water and sanitation is key for healthy, dignified and productive lives. Therefore, drinking water is the first priority among the water uses in the catchment. The water resrouces In Rwanda access in rural areas has increased but many people –often girls- still walk long distances to fetch water. Water is also the first need when it comes to sanitation and hygiene. Rwanda is progressing steadily to improve access and use of water, deal with liquid and solid waste management, storm water management and a large scale hygiene behaviour change of individuals, companies and institutions.Water and sanitation (Watsan, or WASH) include the components of water supply, storm water management and waste water and solid waste management.   

Stunting and health 

Poor sanitation has detrimental impact on health. Poor sanitation leads to spread of diarrheal diseases such as schistosomasis (bilharzia) and other parasites.Poor sanitation causes high levels of mortality and morbidity. The National Sanitation Policy points out that a mild infestation of parasites can consume 10 per cent of a child’s total energy intake as well as interfere with digestion and absorption. Nutrition and hygiene need o b addressed in tandem to improve health and fight stunting,.  Women and girls, more then men need clean water and privacy to take care of their the personal hygiene.

New approaches to sanitation

Access to improved latrines was driven by donor and government supported programmes through UNICEF and NGOs. Ecological sanitation  (Ecosan) and dry toilet have been piloted with positive results. Improved latrines and ecosan latrines adoption remains slow and still lacks ta market-based mechanism to go to scale.Other new projects highlight the link between nutrition and WASH to have more integrated approach to improve health in the rural households.

To develop less donor dependent development in water and sanitation the  PPP approach has been succesfully applied to water. Sanitation marketing approach is introduced by CRS and SNV to achieve a market driven development in sanitation. This includes developing the demand: people express the desire for better sanitation. Sanitation marketing also works on the supply side; training of service providers, design standards for saniation infrastructure and quality control to protect the consumers.

Sanitation marketing cannot without a component of enforcement of environmental health regulation in relation to: fecal sludge management, household solid waste separation, storm water standards; public hygiene standards. of institutional responsibilities and coordination mechanisms; and the lack of a monitoring and reporting system for the sanitation and solid waste sub-sectors

Delivering Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services being water provided by a borehole or a simple family latrine - requires a whole network of individuals and organizations. All parts of the complex WASH system need to work for the service to be effective and sustainable. Rwanda has put in place a policy of Public Private Partnerships policy where  districts sign service contracts  with private water operators.

Public and private sanitation, stormwater- and waste management require serious investments. These investments improve living conditions and have high economic but low financial return. To make these investment attractive for the private sector a component of public finance and/or subsidies might be necessary.

Low Impact Technology for integrated waste management solutions

The growing population needs more drinking water and changing consumption patterns will produce more solid and liquid waste. This requires investments in the water sources and in waste management.

In Rwanda most of the people have pit latrines or sceptic tanks in the urban area. Fecal sludge and sewage management is underdeveloped. Private entrepreneurs empty the pits, collect the fecal sludge in ponds and sell it to farmers. This is a good example of recycling of nutrients and reuse of water into agriculture. However, the ponds often leak and there is the risk of flooding during the rainy season. The fecal sludge ponds pose a threat to the public health. Organizations and companies are working on innovative solutions. Pivot (pivotworks.co) is transforming the fecal sludge into dry organic fertilzer (see video at end of the page)

Investments in better organization and Low Impact Technology of these services are required to avoid the fecal sludge to go directly into nature. (LID) are approaches to urban planning and design which integrate management of the total water cycle (stormwater, sewage and sometimes feacal sludge) into urban development. The approach also includes methods such as porous pavements, infiltration and rain harvesting systems, swales (lagunes) and (artificial) wetlands, which shall be incorporated in development of new and upgrades of existing infrastructure. 

The hilly environment make a centralized sewage very expensive and energy consuming. The challenge is to develop small scale low cost waste water treatment and local recycling of the nutrients. In rural areas the shallow groundwater and seasonal flooding are a risk for the contamination and propagation of diseases. Community Health Policy

WASAC is the water supply utility responsible for water supply in Kigali and the major towns. The water supply systems often show high losses; over 40 % of the water is lost through seepage or not paid (Non Revenue Water). WASAC has addressed the non revenue in Kigali and has plans to reduce NRW in the secondary towns. WASAC also support district authorities with setting up Public Private Partnerships around rural and peri urban water supply services. Districts sign service contracts with private water operators. This service contracts are 'area based' that means that the operator manages a piped with the typical 'water kiosks'  but the private operator is also responsible to maintain other water points in the area.


Protecting the water source

The water source is often taken for granted. In Rwanda the protection of the catchment of small streams fall under responsibility of the District authority. The protection is minimal with a fencing off the surroundings of the source to avoid contamination by cattle. 

IWRM and water supply is to include the water source and waste water. The Water Safety Plans  approach of the WHO looks at all water related risks along the water supply chain. Some waterproviders include the protection of the water source or the catchment. Examples exist of organizing water users and set up of water funds that are used to protect the catchment (Bolivia), Kenya)

The regulator RURA is safeguarding the interest of the consumers as to pay the just price for clean water.


Water supply: Water and sanitation policy

IRC WASH tools

WHO Water quality tools

WaterAid Gravity systems 

Hygiene behavior change PHAST methodology

WSP Sanitation marketing

EAWAG Waste management 

WASTE Waste Management 

WaterAid Household sanitation

WaterAid Pit waste:

Dry toilets in Rwanda Ecological sanitation: A scalable model for Rwanda



Waste Water treatment by artificial wetlands

Del Agua: Changing lives

Liquid waste management Pivot company

RUVIVAL Urine utilization

Hygiene behavior change Community Led Total Sanitation