The world is still far off track to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 - ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Consider some figures on basic sanitation and hygiene:

  • 2.3 billion people still lack access to basic sanitation services.
  • 4.5 billion people lack access to a safely managed sanitation service, where excreta are safely managed and disposed of.
  • 892 million people practice open defecation.
  • In the least developed countries, our best estimates suggest just 27 percent of the population have access to basic hand-washing facilities.1

In addition to these challenges, the costs of failing to sustainably manage water resources and ensuring universal access to water and sanitation are high. If we continue on our current trajectory of unsustainable pressures on global water resources, one estimate suggests “45 percent of the global gross domestic product, 52 percent of the world’s population and 40 percent of global grain production will be put at risk by 2050.”2

Much to Be Gained from Smarter Financing

While the costs of not acting now are massive, current levels of WASH funding are only in line with meeting targets for the most basic WASH services. More alarmingly, given unequal spending between countries, between rural and urban areas, and based on income levels, current financing is not targeted and will not meet basic needs in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Achieving access to safely managed water and sanitation for all would require multiple times more funding, one study from the World Bank suggests a cost of about $114 billion per year. Still, this represents just 0.39 percent of the combined annual national income of the 140 low- and middle-income countries included in the study.3

All of this suggests much has to be done to plug the financing gap, and perhaps more importantly to ensure smarter and more equitable targeting of WASH funding. So, what can donors do to facilitate smarter financing?

Start with WASH Data

WASHfunders – a data and knowledge hub for donors, policymakers, and practitioners working to ensure access to water and sanitation for all -- provides information on existing efforts and funding for basic sanitation in, say, Southern Asia. Learn what other organizations working in India already know about best practices and models for achieving sustainable impact in the area of basic sanitation.

The site’s funding map allows users to browse more than 7,000 WASH grants, totaling more than $1.7 billion, by geography, issue areas, keywords and more. For example, a simple search for basic sanitation grants focused on India brings up 709 grants totaling $127.7 million (the map is constantly updating so you might see an even higher figure).

WASH Tool for Donors

Use the map to:

  • Find out who is already funding and working on WASH where
  • Identify gaps and overlaps in funding
  • Find peer organizations and potential partners
Tap Into Resources and Results

Once you’ve gotten an idea of the key players funding and working on basic sanitation in India, head to the Knowledge Center, a collection of more than 300 social sector publications on WASH, including a scoping study by 3ie on promoting latrine use in rural India, and a practitioner’s guide to community slum sanitation in India from the World Bank.

Still hungry for more lessons from funders and practitioners focused on sanitation? Check out some of the stories on the blog, like this story summarizing the results of an assessment of the Swachh Bharat Mission, or this story featuring a successful program developed by iDE using of results-based funding to scale latrine sales in Cambodia.

Finally, WASHfunders is far from the only data and knowledge resource on water and sanitation. In fact there are so many, that just navigating existing resources can be challenging. To get a basic sense of other resources and databases focused on watch, check out the Finding Solutions page, which lists existing monitoring and evaluation tools, databases, scanning tools, and more.

Select WASH Data and Knowledge Resources:

WASHwatch - A one-stop information hub for water, sanitation and hygiene, including a tool that tracks progress toward government WASH commitments.

Water Point Data Exchange (WPDx) – A global platform for sharing water point data.

International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Water Data Portal – A one-stop-shop for large amounts of data related to water and agriculture that contains meteorological, hydrological, socio-economic, spatial data layer, satellite images as well as hydrological model setups.

AQUASTAT – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s global water information system.

USAID Global Waters – USAID’s water and sanitation knowledge platform.

Charity:water map – A publicly accessible map with data from completed charity:water’s projects.

WHO/UNICEF JMP – WHO and UNICEF’s Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation.

Water Conflict Chronology – A map chronicling water conflicts throughout history.

Engineering for Change Solutions Library – A living database of products and services intended to be accessible and appropriate for people living in poverty.


Original contribution by Inga H. Ingulfsen, Research Analyst, Foundation Center (WASHFunders was created by Foundation Center).

1. United Nations (2018). Sustainable Development Goal 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation. New York, p. 13-14.

2. United Nations (2018). Sustainable Development Goal 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation. New York, p. 12.

3. World Bank Group; UNICEF. 2017. Sanitation and Water for All: How Can the Financing Gap Be Filled? World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank, p. 708. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.