The SSWM Toolbox for Decision Makers

Executive Summary

The concept of Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management (SSWM) links up Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and sustainable sanitation on a local level. It follows a holistic approach and focuses on the human influence on the whole water and nutrient cycle from source to sea and back, its linkages to agriculture, and a sustainable use, treatment and reuse of all water resources. The SSWM Toolbox is an integrated capacity development tool and to date the most comprehensive open source collection of approaches from the water and the sanitation sector. It covers planning approaches, hardware (technology) and software (behavioural approaches) to make water management and sanitation more sustainable. The toolbox is divided into different sections. Here, you will learn what the toolbox is and get an overview of the most important facts and figures that form each section.

Quick Links:

  • What is the SSWM Toolbox > click here
  • Essential Information for Decision Makers > click here

SPUHLER 2009 Water

The SSWM Toolbox

Why a Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management (SSWM) Toolbox?

Water resources are under increasing pressure today. This is not only due to increased consumption, but also to unsustainable and uncoordinated use. A lack of water severely hinders development. Yet globally, there is a lack of knowledge and capacity on sustainable technologies and on holistic approaches.

What is the SSWM Toolbox?

The SSWM Toolbox ( is to date the most comprehensive, free and open-source capacity building tool on water management and sanitation. It tackles the above-mentioned challenges in the water sector in three different ways:

  • it systematically structures, compiles and makes available existing knowledge.
  • it promotes innovative integrated and sustainable approaches that link water management, sanitation, wastewater management and agriculture.
  • It provides guidance to use the toolbox for own trainings (dissemination effects)

>> For more information, see our flyer or our FAQs or use the user manual.

What does the SSWM Toolbox contain?

The SSWM Toolbox is divided into six main sections. It contains

>> For more information, see our tutorial.

CONRADIN 2005 Bhuj Water

Essential Information for Decision Makers

This section compiles key information of the toolbox. Should you like to know more, click on the links provided, they will guide you to the respective full factsheets.

You can also find an online collection of good practices for managing water resources (specifically with knowledge on institutional and conceptual frameworks for IWRM) in the toolbox of the Global Water Partnership (GWP), a partner of SSWM here:

Background: A call for Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management

  • 884 million people lack access to safe water supplies (WHO/UNICEF 2010). 3.5 million people die each year from water-related diseases. This is more than any war claims (UNDP 2006).
  • 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation, including 1.2 billion people who have no facilities at all (WHO/UNICEF 2010), causing severe pollution, robbing people of their dignity and causing disease.
  • Globally, two million tons of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste is discharged into the world’s waterways per day. Such discharges destroy aquatic ecosystems, not only in rivers and lakes, but also in the oceans. As about 40% of the world’s population live in costal areas, this trend will have severe impacts on people’s livelihoods (see water pollution).
  • A lack of access to clean water hinders development and progress: In India only, 73 million working days are lost every year due to water borne diseases at a cost of 600 Million Dollar in terms of medical treatment and lost production (WaterAid 2006). Sub-Saharan Africa loses about 5% of GDP, or some $28.4 billion annually (UNDP 2006). Furthermore, children who are frequently sick are hindered in their development, and cannot attend school regularly, which again lowers their chance of good education and a successful entry into the labour market (see also economic issues)

>> For more information on other environmental, socio-cultural, agricultural and other issues, see the background section.

 CONRADIN 2004 Blue Girl 

The Concept behind SSWM

>> For more information on how water management, sanitation and agriculture are linked, see concept.

Planning for Water Management and Sanitation

>> For more information and a comprehensive overview of existing planning frameworks, or your own “mix&match” approach, see planning and process tools.

 CONRADIN 2006 Fishing Bangalore 

Approaching the Water & Sanitation Crisis with Concrete Tools

Informed choice: The sustainable provision of water and the management of wastewater knows no “one-size-fits-all” solutions. There are also no tools that will automatically generate the ideal solution upon entering a number of parameters. Much more, planners need an overview of the functioning of many approaches – be they technological (hardware) or behavioural (software). This is what the implementation tools section provides you with. Here, we will describe some core concepts:

Hardware Tools

Software Tools

  • Awareness raising: In many countries, students suffer from non-existent or insufficient water supply, sanitation and hand washing facilities, this affects school children negatively and lessens their learning success (MOOIJMAN et al. 2010). Though these interrelations are known, people are often not aware of simple actions they can take themselves. Schools present an excellent opportunity for awareness raising and for reaching a wider community (see our tool on school campaigns or other awareness raising tools).
  • The environment for action: Good ideas and actions are often delimited by inappropriate policies or lacking political support. Hence, it is not the technology and the ideas themselves, but successful change also needs an enabling environment: Appropriate policies can encourage participatory, demand-driven and sustainable development. Public Private partnerships, for instance, have often lead to better access and improved services, because they to allocate responsibility to the person(s) best placed to manage and deal with the task (INWRDAM 2010).
  • Command and control: Regulations (such as a law prohibiting water use for irrigation during daytime, when evaporation is highest; or developing standards for treated wastewater quality can also have huge impacts.
  • But also or economic incentives, e.g. tradeable permits for wastewater discharge, or different tariffs for water) can have an enormous impact on sustainable water management (GWP 2008).

>> For more information and a large collection of hardware and software approaches see implementation tools.

References Library

CORCORAN, E. (Editor); NELLEMANN, C. (Editor); BAKER, E. (Editor); BOS, R. (Editor); OSBORN, D. (Editor); SAVELLI, H. (Editor) (2010): Sick Water? The central role of wastewater management in sustainable development. A Rapid Response Assessment. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UN-HABITAT, GRID-Arendal. URL [Accessed: 05.05.2010].

CORDELL, D. (Editor); SCHMID-NESET, T. (Editor); WHITE, S. (Editor); DRANGERT, J.-O. (Editor) (2011): Sustainable Phosphorus Futures. Global Phosphorus Research Initiative. URL [Accessed: 07.04.2011].

FAO (2010): The state of food insecurity in the world. Rome: FAO. URL [Accessed: 05.04.2011].

INWRDAM (Editor) (2010): Public Private Partnership in Water and Sanitation Sector. Amman – Jordan: The Inter-Islamic Network on Water Resources Development and Management. URL [Accessed: 31.08.2010].

MOOIJMAN, A.; SNEL, M.; GANGULY, S.; SHORDT, K. (2010): Strengthening Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools – A WASH guidance manual with a focus on South Asia. (= Technical Paper Series No. 53). The Hague: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. URL [Accessed: 22.04.2010].

UNDP – UNITED NATION’S DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME (Editor) (2006): Human Development Report 2006. Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis. New York, Palgrave Macmillan: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012].

UN WATER (Editor) (2006): Gender, Water and Sanitation: a Policy Brief. New York: United Nations. URL [Accessed: 26.08.2010].

WHO (Editor); UNICEF (Editor) (2010): Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water. 2010 Update. Geneva: World Health Organisation (WHO) / New York: UNICEF. URL [Accessed: 14.04.2011].

Further Readings Library

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WHO (Editor); UNICEF (Editor) (2015): Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water. 2015 Update. Geneva: World Health Organisation (WHO) / New York: UNICEF. URL [Accessed: 07.07.2015].

This well illustrated report describes the status and trends with respect to the use of safe drinking-water and basic sanitation, and progress made within the framework of the MDG drinking-water and sanitation target. As the MDG era comes to a close, this report shows how far we have come. For example, in a major global achievement, the target for safe drinking water was met in 2010, well ahead of the MDG deadline of 2015. Over 90 per cent of the world’s population now has access to improved sources of drinking water. At the same time, the report highlights how far we still have to go. The world has fallen short on the sanitation target, leaving 2.4 billion without access to improved sanitation facilities. Each JMP report assesses the situation and trends anew and so this JMP report supersedes previous reports (e.g. from 2012, 2013 and 2014).