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TitleTimeline: four decades of learning and work on water, sanitation and hygiene by IRC and partners
Publication TypeFact Sheet
Year of Publication2007
Authorsde Jong, D
Date Published10/2007
Place PublishedThe Hague, the Netherlands
Publication Languageeng

In 2008 the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre celebrated 40 years of working together with partners on information and knowledge sharing for improved water, sanitation and hygiene.

Here is a timeline of 5 decades since 1968 highlighting key sector and IRC events, publications and learning programmes. We invite partners to contribute their highlights of collaborative work from their perspective.

This compilation was made by Dick de Jong, then the Information and Communication Officer at IRC.

Citation Key21494
Full Text


  • 2007 -2012 New Business Plan gets Euro 12.5 million funding from DGIS and VROM, more focus on regional work and local governance for WASH
  • UNICEF contracts IRC to help formulate a draft national policy on rural sanitation in Eritrea.
  • Prototype, a "Wikipedia and eBay for water" site launched at Stockholm Worod Water Week, as open source wiki and set of collaboration and finance tools.
  • Outputs from SWITCH workshop in Lodz, Poland on 'Process documentation for learning alliances and action research, stories in articles, pictures and films.
  • New monitoring protocol established
  • New design Source Bulletin and Sources Nouvelles
  • Middle East and Burkina Faso workshops on portal training and knowledge sharing
  • IRCDOC bibliograhpic database user survey
  • IRC video on community water supply can now be viewed online.2007 50th Source Bulletin
  • IRC team trains senior BRAC field staff in managing a five-year WASH programme.
  • IRC electronic publications made available on CD ROM
  • Cap-Net adds content pages to Source Bulletin
  • Ben Lamoree, new director


  • 2006-2011 IRC input on Learning for Change Alliances in SWITCH, a 5 year programme with 32 partners, funded by the European Union aiming at a paradigm shift in Integrated Urban Water Management
  • 2006-2011 IRC input on communication and learning for change in RiPPLE, a five-year DFID funded research programme to advance evidence-based learning on water supply and sanitation financing, delivery and sustainability and improve equity of access for the poor in Ethiopia and the Nile region
  • 2006-2007 Source and publications surveys done
  • 2006-2007 Mapping and landscaping study done for Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Water Integrity Network launched, IRC is a founding member, together with Stockholm International Water Institute(SIWI), Swedish Water House (SWH), Transparency International (TI), and Water and Sanitation Program-Africa (WSP-AF)
  • Second edition Smart Water Solutions launched in Mexico, with financial support from Partners for Water, NCDO, Aqua for All and PRACTICA Foundation
  • Multilingual InterWATER thesaurus online.
  • IRC Symposium on Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation: Strengthening Capacity for Local Governance
  • IRC gets autonomy through an Act of the Dutch Parliament
  • Gender and Water Alliance (GWA) adds content pages to Source Bulletin
  • Fourth World Water Forum and Ministerial Conference, Mexico
  • Five KM case studies Learn@WELL presented and published at various fora and magazines
  • First editiion Smart Sanitation Solutions launched in Mexico, by NWP, WASTE, PRACTICA, IRC, SIMAVI, Partners for Water
  • Consortium advocates for Capacity Building and Social Learning towards the World Water Forum IV, Mexico, The consortium contributing to this paper on capacity building and social learning included: UNESCO-IHE CapNet UNDP, IRC, STREAMS, WWC, Water Council and the Water and Climate Dialogue with contributions from the World Bank.


  • 2005-2008 Action research for scaling up community-managed WASH services in Ethiopia, with WaterAid, Plan Ethiopia,
  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Schools Roundtable, Oxford UK
  • Third external evaluation of IRC
  • Lodewijk de Waal, new Chairman of the Governing Board
  • IRC symposium Learning Alliances for scaling up innovative approaches in the water and sanitation sector
  • IRC coordinated Waterlines special on school sanitation with five articles
  • IRC coordinated eight articles of Waterlines special on financing the water sector
  • 'Waterlines' Journal dedicated to scaling up rural water supply, with lead article by IRC
  • 2005 - ongoing IRC support to EU Water Initiative, including contributions to a co-financing guide and monitoring and reporting, as well as advice about the Water Finance Guide website, country dialogues, and secratariat support


  • Revised edition with Internet resources published Organising local documentation services for the water and sanitation sector : guidelines
  • 2004-2005 Two e-conferences on Knowledge Management
  • Theme issue Waterlines: Scaling up rural water supply
  • Publication for German development cooperation and the 'IENA Group': Monitoring Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation : a review of experiences and challenges
  • IRC website and publications made available on CD ROM
  • IRC symposium, School Sanitation and Hygiene Education, The Way Forward: Construction is not enough
  • IRC and partners' work featured nine times in the Waterlines April 2004 theme issue on Knowledge Management
  • IRC and partners articles on Hygiene Behaviour theme issue Waterlines,
  • Global WASH Forum, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, Dakar, Senegal
  • Decision to make all new IRC publications freely downloadable.
  • 2004 -2007 Woman, Wellbeing, Work, Waste and Sanitation (4WS), EU-funded action research project in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka


  • 2003- 2008 IRC leading Basic Urban Services water and sanitation in the UN-Habitat Sustainable Cities Programme
  • Third World Water Forum and Ministerial Conference, Japan, including Information Management workshops together with partners
  • Paul van Koppen, new Director
  • IRC launches a new series web-based Thematic Overview Papers with eight new titles, some of them in French and Spanish.
  • IRC 35th anniversary, IRC and the WaterWeb consortium organise the Sixth Water Information Summit, in Delft, including RCD and WELL workshops on knowledge management and sharing
  • First edition Smart Water Solutions booklet launched by NWP, Practica, SIMAVI and Agromisa
  • 2003 – 2007 IRC partner in the Euro-Med Participatory Water Resources Scenarios (EMPOWERS), is a multi-country (Egypt, Jordan, West Bank/Gaza) research and development project led by Care International UK.
  • 2003 - ongoing IRC changed its website, not just the contents but also the technology. It proved to be a very valuable concept which IRC offered to other organisations in the sector. Around 20 organisations all over the world use this 'WASH portal' to manage their content and share information on water, sanitation and hygiene issues


  • Three books published at end of the PAR project:
  • IRC produces a completely revised edition of its best selling title from 1981. This time - Small Community Water Supplies: Technology, People and Partnership, had contributions from 29 authors, half of them from the developing world.
  • First IRC electronic conference (e-mail and Internet) on scaling up community water management
  • Building Capacity for a Strategic Approach to Water Resources Development and Management (EUCAP) project for the European Commission, IRC and African partners pilot testing e-learning based tools to enhance the impact of the training activities
  • 2002 – ongoing IRC portal concept developed using EZ-Publish contact management system and shared with partrners
  • 2002 - 2007 Resource Centre Development Programme with partners in 19 countries


  • 2001-2003 European Union CAPacity building project to improve the effectiveness of water-related programmes and projects, the European Commission (EC), with the UK Department for International Development (DFiD) acting as co-sponsor.
  • World Water Day web site set up on Water and Health for WHO
  • The best of two worlds? : methodology for participatory assessment of community water services. (Technical paper series / IRC; no. 38), Christine van Wijk-Sijbesma, results of the global study that took place to validate the method, implemented by the World Bank Water and Sanitation Program in cooperation with IRC.
  • Publication: The Streams of Knowledge toolbox : work in progress.
  • Keep It Working: a field manual to support community management of rural water supply publication from the PAR project
  • IRC, with WEDC, Plan, WaterAid, SKAT and the WSSCC organise a conference on Scaling up Community of Rural Water Supply.
  • First three online courses Dynamics in the water sector, private sector involvement, a three-week Internet-based course in the water sector, IRC together with The European Network University, with 66 participants in total
  • Bonn Freshwater Conference, including launch of the WASH - Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for all - campaign of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).
  • 2001 – 2006 The Junior Professional Officer (JPO) programme, an exchange programme for young water and sanitation sector professionals in the Netherlands and their counterparts in developing countries
  • 2001 – 2005 IRC partner in a joint Indian, South African and UK research project Water, Households and Rural Livelihoods (WHIRL)
  • 2001 -2004 Gender Mainstreaming in South Africa (GEMSA) to assist the National Community Water and Sanitation Training Institute becoming a resource centre for mainstreaming gender in the sector
  • 2001 - 2007 Second, five-year WELL Resource Centre Network on water, sanitation and environmental contract, in which IRC, WEDC and LSHTM have been working with eight partners in the developing world.


  • Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council Forum, in Foz do Igaucu, Brazil in November 2000, launch of the Iguaçu Action Programme
  • UNICEF and IRC launch a joint School Sanitation and Hygiene Education programme, with an international workshop at IRC
  • Seven videos on Community Water Supply Management produced and used from PAR project (six in local languages from which one global advocacy video used at many regional water conferences and courses)
  • Second World Water Forum and Ministerial Conference, The Hague, Netherlands, endorses Putting the World Water Vision plan in action, including VISION 21: Water for People.
  • Second external evaluation of IRC
  • Publication: Methodology for participatory assessments : with communities, institutions and policy makers : linking sustainability with demand, gender and poverty : METGUIDE. Washington, DC, USA, UNDP-World Bank Water and Sanitation Program/IRC.
  • IRC, Gender Network WSSCC launch Gender and Water Alliance (GWA) as global programme of the GWP, first secretariat at IRC
  • GWP and IRC launch the Gender and Water Alliance, first secretariat at IRC
  • Eight founding partners launch the global Streams of Knowledge coalition, in follow-up of IRC's STREAM research project, first secretariat at IRC
  • 2000 – 2004 Sustainability of Changes in Hygiene Behaviour project research, funded by the European Commission under its INCO-programme (as part of the research framework programme) and by the Dutch Department for Development Cooperation.

1995 - 1999

  • 1999-2000 Four OneWorld Think Tank electronic conferences executed linked with offline contributions from Southern partners on:
  • 1998, Christine van Wijk-Sijbesma's book published Gender in water resources management, water supply and sanitation : roles and realities revisited. (Technical paper series / IRC; no. 33-E)
  • 1998- 2005 The electronic Source Water and Sanitation News emerges features bulletin and news on paper, e-mail and Internet in English French and Spanish, with the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, CREPA (West Aftica) and CINARA (Colombia) joining IRC.
  • 1998 World Bank's Information Solutions Group brings ECDPM, WEDC and IRC together to test the OneWorld Think Tank model as a tool to showcase lessons and develop as a forum for discussion and information sharing with general audiences
  • 1998 IRC develops the web site of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council
  • 1998 -2002 Lessons learned in communities on community water management documented and shared in a mix of face-to-face, e-conferences, articles, books, videos and training courses, see
  • 1997-2000 IRC manages the Gender Network (GenNet) of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council
  • 1997 Start of IRC web site and online IRC water newsletter
  • 1997 Jan Teun Visscher, new Director
  • 1997 Highlights on water supply and sanitation, current awareness bulletin service cancelled
  • 1997 First World Water Forum, accompanied by a major Ministerial Conference, Morocco, endorses the development of a Vision for Water, Life and the Environment
  • 1997 First online InterWATER guide of organisations presented at WSSCC meeting
  • 1996 World Water Council established, in Marseille, France as a non-profit global think tank raising awareness about the importance of water. The Global Water Partnership was established in Stockholm, Sweden, by the World Bank to facilitate action on Integrated Water Resources Management
  • 1995 First external evaluation of IRC
  • 1995 – ongoing IRC starts proving information support for the UN's World Day for Water

1990 - 1994

  • 1994 Water a priority for life – A quarter of a century of caring, booklet by Brian Appleton produced for IRC's 25th anniversary
  • 1994 Third Global Forum in Barbados WSSCC gives IRC a new mandate, testing advocacy and communication strategies in Guinea Bissau
  • 1994 Ministerial Conference on Drinking Water and Environmental Sanitation : implementing UNCED Agenda 21, Noordwijk, The Netherlands + 3 related booklets:
  • 1994 J. B. Hoekman, new Chairman of the Governing Board
  • 1994 First book on Organising local documentation services for the water and sanitation sector : guidelines, IRC Referncies Series no 9, also in Spanish
  • 1994 - 1998 Participatory Action Research (PAR) project on community water management, in 22 communities in six countries, with local partners in Cameroon, Colombia, Guatemala, Kenya, Nepal and Pakistan.
  • 1993 UN General Assembly launches World Water Day on 22 March
  • 1993 Second Global Forum : making the most of resources : Rabat, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, Rabat
  • 1992 International Conference on Water and Environment, Dublin, Ireland: "water has an economic value in all its competing uses and should be treated as an economic good"
  • 1992 Earth Summit – UN Conference on Environment, Agenda 21, chapter 18 : protection of the quality and supply of freshwater resources : application of integrated approaches to the development, management and use of water resources
  • 1991-1998 Norwegian aid agency NORAD co-funded the annual abstract journal Woman, Water, Sanitation.
  • 1991-1995 IRC manages Information Management working group WSSCC
  • 1991- 1997 IRC manages international working group on Information, Education and Communication (IEC) of the WSSCC. This group developed and tested various advocacy and communication tools.
  • 1991 Publication on lessons from the piped supplies demonstration programme: Partners for progress : an approach to sustainable piped water supplies. (Technical paper series / IRC; no. 28).
  • 1991 IRC Director Hans van Damme was awarded the title Officer of Orange of Nassau, from the Dutch Government
  • 1991 International Evaluation Workshop: Technology transfer in the SSF project, The Hague
  • 1991 ESA Collaborative Council expands into the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
  • 1990 Safe Water 2000 Global Consultation at end of the IWSSD, New Delhi, India, resulting in the Delhi Statement "Some for all rather than more for some" and in four New Delhi Guiding Principles
  • 1990 First Highlights on water supply and sanitation, current awareness bulletin produced on subscription basis to sector specialists


  • 1988 IRC helps DGIS: Collaborative Council of External Support Agencies established, in meeting in The Hague, The Netherlands
  • 1987 INTERWATER Thesaurus for Community Water Supply and Sanitation, in English, French and Spanish, supported by the International Development Research Centre (Canada)
  • 1987 Interlaken Consultation, donor coordination meeting to speed up Decade progress, calling for a Collaborative Council of External Support Agencies
  • 1986 IRC invited as observer on the Inter-Agency Steering Committee for the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade
  • 1986 First briefing and short course: Management for Sustainability in Water Supply and Sanitation
  • 1985 Slow sand filtration : a low cost treatment for water supplies in developing countries, brochure published for WHO Regional Office for Europe
  • 1985 Six global concepts agreed by OECD's Development Assistance Committee: institutional reform; cost recovery; balanced development; operation, maintenance and rehabilitation; community participation and hygiene education; coordination and cooperation.
  • 1985 Participation of Women in Water Supply and Sanitation: Roles and Realities book published and Annual Abstract Journal Women and Water started
  • 1985 First meeting of the international partners, IRC, WRc (UK), CIEH (West Africa), CEFIGRE (France), and CEPIS (Latin America) to update the Intermediate thesaurus on community water supply and sanitation for developing countries
  • 1984 Making the links : guidelines for hygiene education in community water supply and sanitation : with particular emphasis on public standpost water supplies. (Occasional paper series / IRC; no. 5) translated in Thai, Arabic, Spanish
  • 1984 IRC staff grew from 17 to 29, former Ambassador Hugo Scheltema becomes chairman of the international Governing Board
  • 1984 IRC 15, "The Local Decade" Symposium,
  • 1984 First publication on training of trainers and cadres: Steps in community education / participation and general outline of training programme for trainers and cadres of water supply.
  • 1984 First Donor Coordination meeting for IDWSSD support. Koenigswinter, Germany
  • 1983 Guidelines for operation and maintenance of slow sand filtration plants in rural areas of developing countries : trainer's guide publication
  • 1983 First Intermediate Thesaurus on Community Water Supply and Sanitation for Developing Countries, IRC/WRC UK
  • 1982 Report on the slow sand filtration demonstration projects in Colombia
  • 1981 IRC Foundation established through an Act of the Dutch Parliament, Hans van Damme becomes Director IRC, Pier Santema became member of the newly constituted Governing Board
  • 1981 First best seller: IRC's Small Communities Water Supply book (more than 13,000 copies sold)
  • 1980 UN agencies and governments commit themselves to the Interntational Water Supply and Sanitation Decade 1981-1990 with the slogan "Water and sanitation for all by 1990, if possible"
  • 1980 Slow sand filtration for community water supply in developing countries : report of an international appraisal meeting held in Nagpur, India


  • 1978 Slow sand filtration for community water supply in developing countries : a design and construction manual book
  • 1978 Slow sand filtration demonstration project extended with four years.
  • 1977 UN Water Resources Conference in Mar del Plata, Argentina, formulated the "water and sanitation for all" slogan and designated the 1981-1990 as the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (IDWSSD).
  • 1977 Slow sand filtration for community water supply in developing countries : a selected and annotated bibliography book
  • 1977 First titles on community participation
  • 1977 -1982 Programme on Exchange and Transfer of Information (POETRI),
  • 1976 UN Conference on Human Settlements: Barbara Ward led a group of famous women through the streets of Vancouver carrying water on their heads, pushed the end resolution to include "measurable improvements by a certain date".
  • 1974- 1978 Public Standpost Water Supply (PSWS) development and demonstration programme, with local partners in Thailand, Indonesia, Malawi and Zambia
  • 1974 Slow sand filtration TP book with WHO
  • 1974 -1979 IRC staff numbers grew from 4 to 17
  • 1973-1976 First field project Slow sand filtration in developing countries, with local partners in India, Thailand, Ghana, Kenya, Pakistan, Sudan, Colombia
  • 1973 Directors of 31 Collaborating Institutions meeting in Bilthoven, the Netherlands deciding priorities for IRC assistance: Health aspects of water reusePublic Standpost Water Supply, Handpumps programmes, Slow sand filtration,
  • 1972 Word Environment Conference, Stockholm
  • 1972 Pier Santema, new Director, and Hans van Damme first full time IRC manager
  • 1972 Drawers of Water book, triggers the first international Ad-Hoc Working Group on Rural Potable Water Supply and Sanitation
  • 1971 First IRC book: Plastic Pipe in Drinking Water Supply Practice
  • 1970 First IRC newsletter produced and disseminated


  • 1969 Hans van Damme joins part time and Loekie van der Sar first full time staff member
  • 1968 World Health Organization and Dutch Government establish the WHO International Reference Centre on Community Water Supply, one of WHO's collaborating centres
  • 1968 WHO push for specific targets for improved water supplies in the second UN Development Decade (1971-1980)
  • 1968 Theo Martijn, first Manager IRC


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