Developing the scientific evidence to inform policies sustaining on-site water supplies and sanitation systems in urban Africa

Capacity-strengthening based on the the identified skills gaps of individuals and institutions

Developing practices to sustain low-cost, on-site water supplies and sanitation systems in urban Africa



  • What are the relationships among rainfall, land use, pit latrine/septic tank densities, and groundwater quality?
  • Does the presence of on-site sanitation serve to reduce or worsen the risk of contamination of groundwater sources?
  • What are the aquifer characteristics and how do these influence the mobility of faecal contaminants?
  • What is the safe separation distance required to reduce substantially the risk of contamination of production boreholes?
  • How vulnerable are our aquifer systems to faecal contamination/pollution and extreme climate events?
  • Does observed contamination increase incidence of diarrhoeal disease and/or malnutrition in infants observed through stunting?
  • How might groundwater use and improved faecal waste management reduce the magnitude of groundwater contamination?


• to map and characterise urban aquifers, water-supply well catchments, and on-site sanitation systems
• to assess the vulnerability of urban aquifers and water-supply wells to microbiological and chemical faecal pollution
• to quantitatively assess the impact of different low-cost, water supply and on-site sanitation strategies on urban groundwater and human health
• to develop with stakeholders implementable, evidence based strategies for sustaining low-cost water supply and sanitation systems in African cities

Njombasemap low res


New knowledge & data

  • Characterisation of urban land-use and subsurface environments in a town, city and mega-city;
  • Assessed performance of on-site and small-scale urban sanitation as well as faecal waste management;
  • Development of groundwater models to support integrated water resource management and urban groundwater governance;
  • Identified relationships among health outcomes, sanitation and public water supplies;
  • Translation of research outputs into implementable policies.

New tools & partnerships

  • Network of Urban Groundwater Observatories in Sub-Saharan Africa;
  • Linked regional centres of excellence in research and training related to low-cost water supply and sanitation systems;
  • New cadre of post-doctoral scientists sustained by an international network of allied scientists;
  • Integrated body of scientific evidence to sustain low-cost water supply and sanitation systems;
  • Online distance-learning materials on low-cost urban water supply and sanitation systems integrating disciplines of hydrogeology, sanitation/hygiene, and public health.