Girls in Samerth carrying water; Girls in Samerth carrying water;

WASH Basins India, Mumbai

Empowering communities to manage water resources safely and sustainably

As part of our community engagement Global Challenge, which supports projects aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we are securing safe, clean drinking water and sanitation for communities through the implementation of a consistent approach to water management and extraction at a community and district level. 

India is facing a water crisis, and vulnerable communities are most at risk. Arup and FRANK Water are working together with India-based partners, People's Science Institute (PSI) and SAMERTH Charitable Trust.

The team’s work was recognised by being shortlisted for the ‘Environment Award’ at the Better Society Awards 2018.


Project Summary

40+ villages will be supported in developing water security plans

11,000people have directly benefited from the project to date

The WASH Basins Toolkit

The Wash Basins Toolkit is a six-stage water security process based on Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) principles, as aligned with SDG Target 6.5.1 calling for the implementation of IWRM at all levels by 2030. We have worked together with communities to understand local issues and develop their own answers to securing safe, clean drinking water and sanitation. 

IWRM is ‘the co-ordinated development and management of water, land, and related resources, to maximise economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising sustainability of ecosystems.’  

The Toolkit empowers local government and communities to jointly control and manage water resources in a way that meets the real needs of their local area,  – while considering the national and international context including river basin and aquifer pressures as well as climate change. It has the potential to change attitudes towards water resource management across India.

View and download the toolkit and associated mobile application

The time is now ripe to theorise from practice and develop robust implementation frameworks that will work across diverse groundwater typologies and socio-economic scenarios to promote better groundwater management. ” Gazala Paul Samerth, India Partner

Nationwide water challenges

India has the highest population of any country in the world without access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. 163 million people in India still lack access to clean water (WaterAid 2018), and millions still defecate in the open (WHO). With issues including water contamination and declining groundwater wells, 40% of India’s population is forecast to have no access to drinking water by 2030, according to a report by the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), the country’s principal planning organisation. 

There are many institutions and organisations involved in water resources allocation in India but there is no nationally consistent or fully effective approach to sustainable water resources management that takes into account the needs of vulnerable communities. 

Working in collaboration

Arup is working with two of FRANK Water's India-based partners, People's Science Institute (PSI) and SAMERTH Charitable Trust, in the States of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, India. Many people in these States have poor socio-economic indicators and access to basic services including water, sanitation and roads. Both regions already face over-exploitation of groundwater due to poor water resources management, and a changing climate will create additional pressures in years to come.

We are helping to embed the principles of integrated water resource management, and particularly information sharing at the different levels of governance, to foster a consistent approach to water resource management. We have done this through field visits and extensive research including a Literature Review. 

The concept of sustainable, multi-stakeholder mapping, usage and maintenance of local, state and national water resources is a central element of this work. A six-stage water security process integrates into, and supports, the delivery of existing plans by local NGOs and the State governments. This project is strengthening local institutional structures and communities to operate and maintain a village level water supply systems and sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services. 
We have also financed and advised on the design and operation of groundwater recharge structures in four villages. Results have shown that this infrastructure is replenishing precious aquifers. 

Implementing a safer water model that can be shared and replicated in India and beyond Implementing a safer water model that can be shared and replicated in India and beyond

Using data effectively

The process emphasises the use of digital tools, including the web and app-based toolkit for data collection, analysis and sharing. This consistent data-sharing platform has helped our partners improve their approach to water management.  

Sharing knowledge

Beyond India, the project has potential to offer real value at a larger scale in other global regions which face similar challenges. The Toolkit can enable, in the long term, a route to replicate the project elsewhere to scale up the benefits of sustainable water resource management.

Co-developing ideas with potential into solutions with global impact

Work alongside us together with communities to improve the lives of the vulnerable and marginalised while tackling systemic challenges. As part of its community engagement global challenge programme, Arup brings together people from many disciplines to work collaboratively on local solutions to urban and rural challenges that can deliver meaningful outcomes and a positive impact. 

Contact us at [email protected]