Changing the way we change the world


Resolution infographic 7-15-15Resolution is the process of addressing problems with water systems or toilets. Such problems are often identified during monitoring or evaluation after a project. Resolution reflects the concept that the organizations that are made aware that water systems or toilets they built aren’t working are responsible for doing something. Read more in the Guidelines for Resolution of Problems with Water Systems Executive Summary (English, Español) and full report (English).

The case for resolution in summary:

  • Access to safe water is a human right.
  • To save lives and change lives, development organizations need to focus on the  provision of good water services and toilets forever.
  • Failed and abandoned water systems and toilets are a massive waste of investment – not only on the part of the donors, but also on the part of the community. Failed systems make poor people poorer.
  • Many problems with water services and toilets are attributed to poor implementation.

It is difficult to determine root causes vs. symptoms, due to the wide range of interventions and a lack of consistency and rigor in evaluation; however, the repetitiveness of the problems identified through monitoring and evaluation of water points across the globe suggests that there are common ways to respond.  The guidelines for resolution of problems with water systems are:


  • First, do no harm. To avoid repeating mistakes, implementing organizations must take time to understand and address root causes of problems instead of just repairing infrastructure.
  • To best serve users, implementing organizations, donors and governments must change their measurements of success from the number of new beneficiaries to measurements like the organization’s contribution to the nation’s water goals, water-person-years, or percentage households in a district with access to an ongoing basic
    service level.
  • Implementing organizations must be accountable to water users.


  • Organizations should shift from just building water systems and rehabilitating broken systems to facilitation, such as capacity building for supporting service providers.
  • Implementing organizations and local stakeholders should collaboratively define and agree on roles and responsibilities in ensuring ongoing services.
  • Implementing organizations should improve monitoring to rapidly and accurately identify areas for resolution.
  • Donors should show increased flexibility in funding to support such efforts.


  • Engage local governments and work within national frameworks.
  • Collaboratively define and agree on roles and responsibilities in ensuring ongoing services.


  • Implementing organizations should make their exit strategy and timeline explicit while planning resolution activities with local stakeholders.


  • Implementing organizations should understand and plan water services based on users’ multiple needs and sources of water, seasonal availability of water, and water resource management needs.


  • Water services are not free—all stakeholders must understand life-cycle costs and agree on who will pay for which costs over what period of time.


  • Implementing organizations should engage local governments and work within national frameworks.

Reference with links are provided here.