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Published on: 20/11/2017

Amanda Loeffen, General Director of WaterLex, believes that one of the key contributing factors for the private sector to come into the water business is that countries are struggling to move fast enough on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6. There is an increasing demand for safe water services and it is the obligation of the State or Government to supply it, as clearly stated in the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation (HRWS). As progress is slow, the private sector is starting to respond to the need.

A governance structure that incorporates the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation can contribute to creating an enabling environment for businesses aiming to provide WASH services.  In an effort to support the work of small service providers of household water treatment and safe storage businesses, WaterLex has, together with the Safe Water Programme, developed a checklist for small water entrepreneurs to enable greater compliance with HRWS.

Apart from the SDG principles of community engagement, access to information and water quality and acceptability, two further HRWS fundamentals need to be adhered to:

  1. country policies and legislation governing the provision of WASH services;
  2. understanding the community needs and product acceptability.

 Human right to WASH - checklist for small business by Waterlex

Legal or illegal

Safe water businesses need to apply local laws. In a country where there is little or no regulation to support the private sector to deliver WASH products and services, these activities are unlikely to support human rights, and in the worst case, could be considered illegal. However, if these small businesses can operate in a way that meets the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation, government should be able to support private sector solutions, knowing that there is control over quality and affordability and making sure that vulnerable people are being supplied.

Safe water businesses in countries encounter a number of challenges if they fail to address the HRWS fundamentals:

  1.  In the absence of a clear in-country regulatory framework governing water businesses, the businesses could be considered illegal, and there is unlikely to be any support for these small businesses
  2. Absence of water quality standards, regulation of quality water supply in the WASH sector, and lack of capacity for testing, thence no defined threshold for water safety.
  3. Community acceptability not met as a result of not conducting an in-depth analysis of the beneficiaries.

Tips for safe water businesses:

  • Scan the national policy framework and structures for applicable policies, regulations and systems, and also establish if private sector operatives are recognized in the WASH sector.
  • In the absence of a regulatory framework, or associated weaknesses, engage with government through the appropriate structures to establish/and strengthen these.
  • Ensure compliance with the local laws and regulations in your operations related to supply of safe water services.
  • Refer to the HRWS water criteria on how to supply water in an accessible way, how to engage the beneficiary communities, affordability for different vulnerable people, water quality, and product acceptability.


This article is based on an interview with Amanda Loeffen, General Director of WaterLex. The interview took place in September 2017 during a national workshop on Accelerating Universal and Equitable Access to Safe Drinking Water in Kathmandu, Nepal.


At IRC we have strong opinions and we value honest and frank discussion, so you won't be surprised to hear that not all the opinions on this site represent our official policy.

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