Water Conservation

Solid Ground Farmer Trainings Continue

modeling pesticide safety outfit solid ground farmer training models pesticide safety outfit

UConn Extension’s Solid Ground Training class for beginner farmers on the “Safe and Effective Use of Pesticides For Organic and Non-Organic Producers”, held in Bethel on April 10 and taught by Mary Concklin. A part of the class was devoted to learning about personal protective equipment (PPE) with Chelsey Hahn modeling several different PPE items.

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Achieving Tangible Results for Vulnerable Communities

Charles Lee, Senior Policy Advisor
Office of Environmental Justice, US EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its Environmental Justice FY2017 Progress Report today. It is noteworthy that 2017 marked the 25th anniversary of the founding of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. The accomplishments highlighted in the report affirm through action how, after a quarter century of progress, environmental justice (EJ) is deeply ingrained in EPA’s fabric.
An overarching focus of the report is demonstrating tangible results in minority, low-income, tribal and indigenous communities. Here are four results that illustrate progress from the past year:

  1. As EPA’s environmental justice program matured over the past two decades, it grappled with the difficult task of demonstrating environmental outcomes in vulnerable communities. EPA developed measures for several significant national EJ challenges, one of which was fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5). In FY2017, EPA documented that the percentage of low-income people living in areas meeting the PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standards increased from 43% during the baseline period of 2006-2008 to 92% in (2014-2016).
  2. EPA similarly provided national results for enforcement actions and the environment benefits of such actions in areas with potential EJ concerns. For example, 35% of the 217 million pounds of pollutants estimated to be reduced, treated or eliminated from enforcement actions in FY2017 were in such areas. EPA is able to provide these results because the Agency systematically reviews all enforcement actions for EJ considerations. The report also highlights the importance of the EJSCREEN mapping and screening tool, which provides the starting point for these assessments.
  3. EPA and its federal, state, tribal and local government partners continue to collaborate to benefit communities. The Omaha Lead Superfund cleanup, affecting over 175,000 persons in a 27 square- mile area, reduced the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels from 25% in 1999 to 0.3% in 2017. Other examples of beneficial collaborations are the improved air quality around ports, railyards and freight distribution centers from $23.8 million in Diesel Emissions Reduction Act funding and the number of community drinking water systems returned to compliance with lead and arsenic standards in the Pacific Southwest.
  4. The report highlights the many ways EPA supports communities as they travel their own journeys to community health and revitalization. For example, with an EJ grant, “Project Oka” helped the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma maintain clean sources of water. An Urban Waters partnership assisted residents of the Martin Pena Channel, one of the poorest and most environmentally overburdened neighborhoods in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in creating an urban farm.

These results are but a few of the many accomplishments highlighted in this year’s progress report. Many of the examples required decades of effort, and are a testament to the long-standing commitment, innovation and hard work of the EPA staff who do this work on a day-to-day basis. They provide lessons for how we can all work together more effectively to address disproportionate environmental impacts, health disparities, and economic distress in our nation’s most vulnerable communities so they are cleaner, healthier and more prosperous places to live, work, play and learn.

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Stormwater Research from Extension

stormwater running into a street drain

Our UConn Extension educators working in land use, and the environment have recently published two articles:

Extension Educators Mike Dietz and Chet Arnold have an article, Can Green Infrastructure Provide Both Water Quality and Flood Reduction Benefits?, in the May issue of the Journal of Sustainable Water in the Built Environment. You can read the article online at: http://s.uconn.edu/476

The UConn CLEAR NEMO team recently wrote an article on our State of LID in Connecticut study that was published in the Watershed Science Bulletin. The study looked at what is being required for stormwater management practices by Connecticut municipal land use plans and regulations. Much of the leg work for the study was carried out by our Extension intern a few years ago. The article can be read online at: http://s.uconn.edu/477.

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Wastewater treatment: A critical component of a circular economy

 

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The 8th World Water Forum was held in Brazil a few days ago. What’s ironic is that the more than nine thousand of us attending this Forum were discussing water-related issues in a city of three million grappling with a severe water shortage. After checking in at my hotel, the first thing I found in my room was a notice from the Government informing guests of this crisis and recommending ways to reduce water use. We recently learned of the predicament in Cape Town, South Africa, which was on the verge of running out of this essential liquid—a plight facing many cities around the world.

The way in which we have been managing this resource and its services is clearly not a long-term solution. Traditional investment planning, design, and operating models are linear in nature: water is extracted from the source, treated, and used, and the wastewater is then treated and discharged in a receiving water body. We need to transition from the linear model to a circular one focused on reducing water use and consumption and promoting the reuse, recycling, restoration, and recovery of water resources. Realizing this goal will entail rethinking the current wastewater treatment model.
 
In a bid to foster this paradigm shift in Latin America, we are working with the CAF and several countries to implement the “Wastewater: From Waste to Resource” initiative. As part of this effort, a session was organized during the World Water Forum to facilitate discussions with governments and the private sector on the challenges and opportunities associated with promoting this fundamental change. Wastewater must no longer be seen as a problem but as a solution that can help provide sustainable infrastructure services, improve the financial viability of operators and environmental quality, and strengthen the resilience of the systems. “Wastewater treatment plants” should be abandoned in favor of “water resource recovery facilities.” Recovery of wastewater resources is already underway in several countries, albeit in an ad hoc manner.
 
So here’s the million-dollar question: What do we need to do to secure buy-in for this paradigm shift in our region? Below are a few suggestions arising from our work: 

  1. Appropriate legislation. Minimum effluent quality standards can be established in countries, as has already been done throughout most of the region. However, this legislation must be evaluated, taking costs associated with its implementation into consideration. Establishing strict effluent standards adopted in developed countries will have an adverse effect on the environment, as countries will be required to spend excessively on a small number of plants, leaving other sources of pollution untreated. Objectives for receiving bodies must be borne in mind when drafting legislation. These standards must be implemented over time in order to ensure compliance at a reasonable cost. Having appropriate legislation without institutions to ensure its application and with clear and enforceable sanctions is undoubtedly an exercise in futility.
     
  2. Intersectoral regulation, policies, and incentives.  These instruments must be adapted, aligned, developed, and implemented in concert with other sectors, as there may be regulations in other sectors (e.g., agriculture, health, energy) that prohibit the reuse of water or the use of biosolids such as fertilizers. Deriving income from bioenergy generation may not be possible if the electricity sector or the regulator has no incentive to promote the use, purchase and/or transportation of electricity generated from biogas. The water-energy-food nexus in basins must be explored and understood. Only this level of understanding will provide the positive reinforcement needed for combined policies and regulatory actions.
     
  3. Initiatives developed as part of a basin planning framework. Basin planning paves the way for integration of the benefits and impacts of the interventions proposed in multiple sectors, incorporating climate risks and socioenvironmental considerations as well. Recent basin planning methodologies include participatory mechanisms to reduce conflicts among users. Projects that have adopted this approach promote resource optimization and efficiency and maximize economic and social well-being without undermining the sustainability of the ecosystems. Greater priority must therefore be given to projects that adopt a comprehensive approach for basins. 
     
  4. A complete life cycle analysis that covers financial, environmental (including climate), and social aspects must be used to assess treatment plants. Financing sources for O&M must be explored and secured prior to launching new plants, expansions, and/or rehabilitation works. If O&M financing is inadequate, lower-cost technologies must be considered and potentially embraced, at least during the initial stage of the investment program. The plant’s contribution to the environment must not only be seen as improved water quality in the receiving body. It should also be viewed as a benefit tied to water reuse (e.g., substitution of alternative sources), energy generation from biogas (e.g., climate change mitigation and adaptation), and the use of biosolids as fertilizers (e.g., substitution of synthetic fertilizers). In addition, the positive social impacts of the facility must be taken into consideration during the entire cycle (e.g., jobs generated by the construction and O&M of the plants; increased value of properties owing to the improved quality of the receiving body; an appropriate alternative water source for farmers; low-cost fertilizers when a biosolid program is being implemented; improved health of the population). This life cycle analysis can be used to approve and justify tariff rates, and O&M costs can be covered by these rates and additional earnings from the sale of these recovered resources.

We have lots more to share in upcoming blogs, so we will be back soon with an in-depth look at various aspects of our initiative. Also check out and download these case studies highlighting innovative approaches on wastewater planning, management and financing.

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Put Local On Your Tray (Or Plate) In April

Put Local on Your Tray is a farm-to-school program helping Connecticut schools serve and celebrate regionally grown food. Even if you’re not a school, they have some advice for getting local onto your plate this season.

spinach and greens being grown in greenhouse
Photo: Molly Deegan

Days are getting slightly warmer and longer, the breeze is sharp, and the land is both awakened and nourished by fresh spring rain. Farmers are in a busy period of transition, from indoor planning and preparing for the height of summer – to the beginning stages of planting outdoors – making sure everything is ready to go. While there may not be an abundance of produce to choose from this month, there still are some special products to take advantage of for their especially sweet and distinct flavors of spring that they offer. For instance, mixed greens!

Spinach is our suggested local item to look out for – according to our Tray team Farmer Liaison, Shannon. After a long winter, the sugars stored in it’s leaves give it flavor hard to find any other time of year. Seen below, are rows of sweet greens growing at Massaro Community Farm in Woodbridge.

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New Rules for Corralling Runoff Require Local Actions

By JUDY BENSON

Haddam – As the state gets wetter, Connecticut cities and towns have little choice but to take better control of the water that flows over streets, parking lots and fields from rainfall and snowmelt.

“There are two drivers related to stormwater,” said David Dickson, faculty member of the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR). “One is climate change. New England is seeing more rain and more intense rainfall events. The other is the MS4 general permit, which became effective in 2017.”

Dickson, speaking at a March 22 symposium sponsored by the UConn Climate Adaptation Academy, explained that MS4 — the shorthand term for the new state regulation for how municipal stormwater is managed — now requires cities and towns to reduce nonporous pavement on streets, sidewalks and parking lots. It also requires they establish “low impact development” practices as the standard for new construction. The state regulation is the result of a federal mandate under provisions of the Clean Water Act requiring gradually stricter rules to curb pollution.

“Towns have to enter into a retrofit program to reduce impervious surface areas by two percent by 2022,” Dickson said. “LID now has to be the standard for development. You can’t just say it’s too costly. This is going to change how we think about site development in this state.”

The third workshop in a series on the impacts of changing weather patterns on local land-use practices, the symposium drew about 50 municipal officials from around the state. It was presented at the Middlesex County Extension Center by the Climate Adaptation Academy, a partnership of CT Sea Grant, CLEAR and the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. The Rockfall Foundation co-sponsored the event.

Overall, the purpose of the session was to educate local officials about “what works and what to watch out for to ensure success” when it comes to implementing low impact development, said Tony Marino, executive director of the Rockfall Foundation.

Dickson, the first of the four presenters, explained that with increasing amounts and intensity of precipitation, the impacts of unmanaged stormwater carrying road and agricultural pollutants into the environment are increasing.

“Stormwater is the top source of water pollution into Long Island Sound,” he said.

An illustration of a bioswale is shown during one of the presentations.
An illustration of a bioswale is shown during one of the presentations.

In the 1990s, low-impact development techniques emerged including “green roofs” covered with planted beds to absorb rainfall, grass swales to replace curbs and gutters, rain gardens and bio-retention areas with trees and shrubs situated to absorb runoff, and permeable pavement that allows water to infiltrate into the soil. That allows the soil to capture pollutants and groundwater to be recharged.

Since then, LID designs have been used at several sites on UConn’s main campus and in the Jordan Cove housing development in Waterford, among other locations around the state. While at least one-third of towns in Connecticut have adopted LID techniques at various levels, Dickson said, the new regulation means all towns will have to commit to making them the standard practice because it’s an economical and effective way to comply with the requirement to curtail stormwater runoff.

“Towns will have to start thinking about where impervious cover drains directly into their stormwater system, and enter into retrofit programs to reduce impervious areas,” he said.

Michael Dietz, water resources educator with CLEAR, said that more than 20 years after they were built, the LID features in the Jordan Cove development are still working. Research shows significantly less runoff coming from the portion of the development with LID compared to the control section built with traditional design features, he said. The LID structures continued to function even when the homeowners failed to maintain the areas correctly, he noted.

“The take-home message is that LID mostly still works, in spite of what people do,” he said.

At the main UConn campus, Dietz said, LID has “become part of the fabric of the design” for all new construction since it was first used in the early 2000s. But over those years, there have been mistakes and lessons learned, he added. In one case, curbs were installed where they weren’t supposed to be so runoff ended up being directed away from a bio-retention area. In another case, the bio-retention area was poorly located on the way students took to a dining hall, creating a compacted path that reduced its effectiveness.

“We failed to factor in people,” Dietz said.

The area, he said, was redesigned with a footpath through the middle that still allowed for runoff capture.

Some of the 50 municipal officials who attended the UConn Climate Adaptation Academy about low impact development listen during one of the presentations.
Some of the 50 municipal officials who attended the UConn Climate Adaptation Academy about low impact development listen during one of the presentations.

In another example, a parking lot next to the field house covered with permeable concrete “totally failed” last year and was allowing for “zero infiltration.” The concrete was not mixed and handled properly, he said, and curing time was insufficient, among other problems. It has been replaced with pre-cast pervious concrete blocks. Other challenges include the need for regular cleaning of pervious pavement to unclog porous spaces.

“You neglect it, it costs you down the road,” Dietz said.

Giovanni Zinn, city engineer for New Haven, said the dozens of bio-retention areas, rain gardens, swales and pervious pavement areas installed around the city do require more planning and attention.

“But if you simplify your designs, the construction will be less costly and they’ll be easier to maintain,” he said. Overall, he added, maintenance costs are less costly than for traditional infrastructure.

He advised choosing low-maintenance plantings and involving local residents and community groups in the projects. Looking ahead, New Haven is planning to build 200 more planted swales to capture runoff in the downtown area and another 75 in other parts of town.

“The bio-swales are the first step in dealing with our flash flooding issues in the downtown,” he said.

David Sousa, the final speaker, is a senior planner and landscape architect with CDM Smith, which has its headquarters in Boston and an office in East Hartford. Instead of talking about development practices to minimize runoff, Sousa focused on “how to avoid it altogether.”

He advocated for compact urban redevelopment over “big box” stores with large parking lots. Not only does this give residents stores and restaurants they can get to on foot, by bicycle or mass transportation, “it also saves acres of green fields.”

“It’s being done in our communities,” he said, citing examples in Mansfield, Stamford and Middletown. “But it’s not being done enough.”

Redevelopment of urban areas, he said, creates communities that use fewer resources, which in turn is better for the environment.

“The carbon footprint of people in cities is so much less than those with suburban lifestyles,” he said. “With less vehicle miles traveled, there is less need for impervious parking surfaces, less stormwater flooding and less emissions. We need to think about ways to avoid using LID in the first place.”

Judy Benson is the communications coordinator at Connecticut Sea Grant. She can be reached at:judy.benson@uconn.edu

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Poop In The Garden

By: Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH

Extension Educator/Food Safety

 

insect on tomato in garden
Photo: Wes Kline, Rutgers University

Over the weekend, before the most recent snow, I looked out my kitchen window to see my dog squatting over the chive patch in our vegetable garden. It was too late to stop him.

I spend a lot of time with Connecticut farmers, talking about producing safe fruits and vegetables. We always talk about how animal feces can affect food safety. Animals and birds are often the source human pathogens or microorganisms that can make us sick. Some examples of those pathogens include E. coli O157:H7 (associated with many outbreaks tied to meat, poultry and fresh produce, most recently lettuce); Salmonella (eggs, poultry, pork, sprouts, cucumbers and cantaloupe); and Listeria monocytogenes (all types of foods, including processed meats, cheese, cantaloupe, apples, and frozen vegetables).

Wildlife can spread human pathogens by depositing feces in fields or water sources and spreading fecal contamination as they move. This is very difficult to control. Complete exclusion may not be possible, depending on the species of wildlife. It can be a tough job for farmers to exert any kind of control over geese, other birds, deer, or rodents.

Generally speaking, a home garden is a more manageable space. There are things you can do to discourage the presence of wildlife, though nothing is fail-proof. The first thing you may have to do is to identify the pest. Once you know which animal is eating the lettuce or leaving droppings around, knowledge of their habits and food needs can help you choose the best method to deter them. The University of Connecticut www.ladybug.uconn.edu site has fact sheets that give advice regarding control of wildlife in your yard. In addition, take a look at http://npic.orst.edu/pest/wildyard.html for additional suggestions on specific species.

Here are some suggestions that may help:

  • Fence your garden. Fences can make for good neighbors, they say, and this is certainly true of fences that keep animals away from your tomatoes. The fence can be as simple as a strong wire mesh. You may have to bury the fence several inches into the ground to prevent creatures from burrowing under the fence. Some animals are perfectly capable of climbing the fence to get to the other side (did someone say, “squirrel”?). A metal shield at the top of the fence might be useful.
  • Be careful where you hang your bird feeders/houses/bird baths. If birds are feeding or nesting at the bird feeders or houses you have purposely added to your yard, they will be more than happy to poop on your plants as they fly back and forth. This is a lesson easily learned as our birdhouse attracts lots of birds and their droppings on our patio furniture and patio tomatoes alike.

In addition, do not let garden trash build up—dropped fruit and pulled weeds can feed and shelter small animals. Cover trashcans, compost bins and other potential sources of food.  Remove pet food or birdseed from the yard.

  • Use decoys or other deterrents. While these can be effective on a variety of wildlife, it is important to move the decoys every few days. Deer, birds and rodents may be smarter than the average bear: they can figure out when a fake coyote is fake.

One of the most difficult “pests” in the backyard vegetable garden can be Fido or Fluffy—resident dogs and cats. Fencing is most likely to help keep the dog away. Of course, you need to remember to close the gate. An open gate turned out to be how my dog got into the chive patch.

Cats love the soft soil of a garden and WILL use it as a litter box. Of course, the best course of action is not to let your cat out at all. There are too many ways they can get injured, sick, or worse whether you live in a city, suburb, or on acres of land.

If the dog gets through the gate or over the fence and poops on your edibles, there is little you can do. If it is early in the season and the plant has no edible parts, you can wait 120 days to harvest, treating the feces like raw manure—feces from another species. If harvestable or close to harvestable produce is affected, it is best to leave it on the plant. Do not harvest, do not eat; do not harvest, wash and eat. It is just too risky.

This would be true if you see signs that indicate the presence of other wildlife as well. Bird poop on the tomatoes or lettuce leaves; mouse droppings in the herb bed; or evidence that rabbits have been gnawing on the cucumbers. You really should not eat any fruits or vegetables that have been pooped upon. Washing is not necessarily going to totally eliminate any risk from human pathogens that might have been left behind. Do not toss affected produce in the compost bin either. Animal feces should never be added to compost that will be used on edible plants.

This advice is especially important if you have kids, seniors or others in your family who might have a compromised immune system. It is just not worth the risk.

For more information about food safety and controlling wildlife in your back yard, visit our website at www.foodsafety.uconn.edu, check out some of the links in the article, or contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271.

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World Water Day Shines Light on Water Reuse

hands-water-poor-poverty.jpg

Almost 29% of the world’s population lack access to safe drinkable water with a projected increase to 43% in 2050. Water scarcity due to an increasing demand for clean water and diminishing supply is a global reality, with factors such as flooding, climate change, pollution and increase in population contributing to a decline in the quantity and quality of water.

Water reuse is the use of treated wastewater for beneficial purposes. Associated terms are wastewater reuse and water recycling. Water reuse augments existing water supply, and for communities experiencing water shortage, water reuse means extensive increment and an alternative source of clean water. Water reuse helps reduce wastewater discharge and as such minimizes or eliminates pollution. It reduces water over-abstraction, and eventually water stress. Water recycling results in a sustainable source of reliable and dependable water supply that is not affected by external factors like drought or variability in weather. 

Water reuse processes now tend towards managing wastewater as a resource instead of a waste. Wastewater treatment processes include preliminary, primary and secondary steps. Preliminary steps include measuring the flow coming into the plant, screening out large solid materials, and grit removal. Primary treatment targets settleable matter and scum that floats to the surface. Secondary treatment processes are employed to remove total suspended solids and dissolved organic matter. Secondary treatment processes consist of aerated activated sludge basins followed by final solids separation via settling or membrane filtration and disinfection.

Three types of wastewater treatment projects exist:

Nonpotable reuse projects treat wastewater for purposes other than consumption, such as irrigation, industrial use, and agriculture. Nonpotable reuse systems usually have lower water quality objectives than potable systems, and the level of treatment varies depending on the end use.

Potable reuse systems use advanced treatment processes to remove contaminants from so that is hygienic enough for consumption and to meet drinking water standards and other appropriate water quality objectives. Commonly, the highly treated water is then released into a surface water body or aquifer, then withdrawn, treated further, blended with other conventional water supply sources, and piped for the end users.

De facto reuse occurs when a community draws water from a water body that includes wastewater from upstream communities. De facto reuse is quite common and occurs unintentionally. The movement of water downstream serves to filter it and as such make it relatively hygienic. 

Are you intersted in learning more about new reuse technologies. Contact AWS today for more information. 

Learn More

[Read More …]

World Water Day Shines Light on Water Reuse

hands-water-poor-poverty.jpg

Almost 29% of the world’s population lack access to safe drinkable water with a projected increase to 43% in 2050. Water scarcity due to an increasing demand for clean water and diminishing supply is a global reality, with factors such as flooding, climate change, pollution and increase in population contributing to a decline in the quantity and quality of water.

Water reuse is the use of treated wastewater for beneficial purposes. Associated terms are wastewater reuse and water recycling. Water reuse augments existing water supply, and for communities experiencing water shortage, water reuse means extensive increment and an alternative source of clean water. Water reuse helps reduce wastewater discharge and as such minimizes or eliminates pollution. It reduces water over-abstraction, and eventually water stress. Water recycling results in a sustainable source of reliable and dependable water supply that is not affected by external factors like drought or variability in weather. 

Water reuse processes now tend towards managing wastewater as a resource instead of a waste. Wastewater treatment processes include preliminary, primary and secondary steps. Preliminary steps include measuring the flow coming into the plant, screening out large solid materials, and grit removal. Primary treatment targets settleable matter and scum that floats to the surface. Secondary treatment processes are employed to remove total suspended solids and dissolved organic matter. Secondary treatment processes consist of aerated activated sludge basins followed by final solids separation via settling or membrane filtration and disinfection.

Three types of wastewater treatment projects exist:

Nonpotable reuse projects treat wastewater for purposes other than consumption, such as irrigation, industrial use, and agriculture. Nonpotable reuse systems usually have lower water quality objectives than potable systems, and the level of treatment varies depending on the end use.

Potable reuse systems use advanced treatment processes to remove contaminants from so that is hygienic enough for consumption and to meet drinking water standards and other appropriate water quality objectives. Commonly, the highly treated water is then released into a surface water body or aquifer, then withdrawn, treated further, blended with other conventional water supply sources, and piped for the end users.

De facto reuse occurs when a community draws water from a water body that includes wastewater from upstream communities. De facto reuse is quite common and occurs unintentionally. The movement of water downstream serves to filter it and as such make it relatively hygienic. 

Are you intersted in learning more about new reuse technologies. Contact AWS today for more information. 

Learn More

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7 ideas on how knowledge can help us achieve universal access to safely-managed drinking water and sanitation

It is vital that we better manage our knowledge, to make better use of it for delivering universal access to water and sanitation. This requires new ways of capturing, sorting, weighing, curating, and translating knowledge into practical, bite-sized chunks. The Disease Control Priorities project, now in its third edition (www.dcp-3.org), is an excellent example of what this looks like in practice. It aims to compile the best available evidence across multiple areas of health to provide a snapshot of the coverage of services, the problems resulting from lack of services, the effectiveness of interventions, and the cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit of those options.
 

Disease Control Priorities Network (DCPN), funded in 2010 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a multi-year project managed by
University of Washington’s Department of Global Health (UW-DGH) and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). 


As authors of the WASH chapter of DCP-3, we wanted to share some of our key takeaways below:

1. The transition from MDGs to SDGs has not been an easy one.
The goalposts have shifted for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) with significantly more ambitious targets whose end date is only 12 years away. Given an annual financing gap of tens of billions of dollars for WASH alone, we need to continually innovate and manage our knowledge better, leading to more efficient and sustainable approaches to delivering WASH services. But reaching the last mile – isolated, poor and vulnerable populations – presents particular challenges for getting to universal access, especially when considering the higher ‘safely managed’ standards which countries are now grappling with.

2. But there are many reasons to be hopeful.
We can find encouragement in the achievements of countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Chile who are nearing universal WASH coverage, Singapore’s steps towards closing the water cycle, India’s commitment at the highest political levels to end open defecation by 2019, and large-scale sanitation programmes reaching the poor and vulnerable in Tanzania, Ethiopia and Indonesia, among other countries. These examples show that rapid and sustained progress is possible given political commitment, dedicated resources and adequate and incentivized human resources.

3. Disaggregated data are key: we need to understand heterogeneity.
The quality of WASH facilities varies widely between the poor and non-poor, and between the urban and rural areas in many countries. The World Bank’s WASH Poverty Diagnostic Initiative provides an in-depth look at some lesser known differences across 18 countries. For example, in Indonesia and Bangladesh there are striking differences across neighbourhoods in the same city, while in Tajikistan households in the Sughd region have piped water just 1 day a week. Disaggregated data on the underserved—including slum populations, ethnic groups, women, children, elderly, and persons with disabilities can inform allocation decisions and reduce inequalities. 

4. Multi-sectoral approaches are key, requiring coordination and convergence.
Access to improved water, sanitation and hygiene behaviours underlie early child nutrition and development, helping to fortify human capital and economic growth. But these interventions by themselves are not sufficient – convergence is needed. That means approaches that deliver quality WASH services, must be coordinated alongside critical health, nutrition and food security interventions to communities suffering from high rates of chronic malnutrition.

5. We need greater finesse in our behaviour change approaches given context specific attitudes, practices, social and cultural influences.
Behavior change is rarely achieved through conventional methods, nor is it easily transferable. This matters because policy makers are increasingly looking to the behavioural sciences for clues about how human behaviour departs from the expected in systematic ways. The idea that subtle, non-intrusive interventions – what Nobel Prize Winning Economist Richard Thaler calls ‘nudges’ – can lead to interventions that are effective in a variety of contexts is gaining traction. 

6. Financing needs to be ‘smart’ and better targeted to the needy.
Many WASH interventions, such as water filters, piped water, boreholes, and private latrines, are cost-effective, but don’t always reach the extreme poor. Conditional-cash transfer (CCT) programs can provide the methodology and data sources to support poverty targeting of WASH services, enabling subsidies and financing to reach those who would benefit the most. These programs provide a platform to reach target households with sanitation promotion messages. 

7. We need methodologies and tools to allow regular updating of sector knowledge, rather than one-off studies.
Traditionally, research syntheses such as literature reviews and meta-analyses have provided the latest view on key topics. But with new evidence released daily, these syntheses quickly become outdated. The rapidly expanding knowledge base from more institutions working in WASH, more academic papers and more databases requires us to be smarter about the way we generate and manage knowledge, necessitating greater collaboration across institutions and across countries. One particularly effective model is the Cochrane Collaboration which synthesises health impact evidence and encourages periodic updates of meta-analyses as new studies become available.
 

As knowledge accelerates and changes in its nature, we need new approaches to knowledge management to ensure we are using what we know wisely, free from information overload and risks of bias – especially if we are to accelerate towards delivering on the SDGs.
 

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