'Water for Life' UN-Water Best Practices Award. 2014 edition: Finalists

Category 1

1st ranked: IWMI – Tata Water Policy Program, India

>> More information about the initiative “IWMI – Tata Water Policy Program, India”

2nd ranked: Participatory Groundwater Management (PGM) in Andhra Pradesh Community Based Tank Management Project, India


The Participatory Groundwater Management (PGM) component of Andhra Pradesh Community Based Tank Management Project was designed in response to the urgent need to upscale experiences and lessons learnt from projects that had demonstrated farmers can be successfully involved in groundwater management. In an effort to mainstream PGM the project also intended to redefine the role of the State Ground Water Department from being a monitoring agency into a groundwater management agency promoting stakeholder participation.

The project

PGM was built upon a recognized benefit of stakeholder participation, realized over decades of pilot projects in participatory groundwater development and management. Its main objectives have been:

  • Social benefits through promoting equity among users;
  • Empowering groundwater users in the tank influence zone to wisely manage their dynamic groundwater resources;
  • Empowering a gender balanced workforce through training.

Results achieved

The project main achievements included the following:

  • Water use efficiency. Data demonstrated that groundwater users are moving away from high water requiring crops such as rice (paddy) towards less water demanding irrigated dry crops while maintaining productivity and income.
  • More groundwater users sharing water with those without access to irrigation;
  • Enhanced productivity. An impact assessment study confirmed trends with higher productivity figures;
  • Strengthened the State Ground Water Department. The technical capability of the State Ground Water Department has been augmented through upgrading of data centers in 13 districts and the state headquarters plus the construction of 273 piezometers. The department staff members have also gained valuable experience in participatory groundwater management due to regular monitoring of the PGM capacity building and other activities.

3rd ranked: Sustainable Southeast, the water-energy nexus in the Southeast region of the Canary Islands, Spain


The Southeast Region of Gran Canaria (Mancomunidad del Sureste de Gran Canaria), in the island of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, is composed of three municipalities: Agüimes, Ingenio and Santa Lucia, and currently has a population of 127,251. Its economy depends on agriculture for export and to a lesser extent industry, trade and tourism. It is a barren area, with few natural resources such as water, strong winds and high sun exposure.

In the 70’s water supply to the population and agriculture entered a crisis, threatening both the quality of life of the population and the survival of their main economic resource: agricultural export.

The heads of the three municipalities decided to join forces to address this problem and created the Association of Municipalities of Southeast Gran Canaria (Mancomunidad del sureste de Gran Canaria).

The project

The Mancomunidad has applied a number of innovative approaches in a very water-scarce environment, combining renewable energy sources with wastewater management systems. The heads of the three municipalities, supported by organizations and citizens established primary and secondary objectives as follows:

  • Obtain full self-sufficiency of drinking water in the county, for domestic purposes and in agriculture, irrespective of irregular rainfall patterns and availability of fossil fuels, also avoiding the overexploitation of aquifers. This could be achieved from seawater desalination on a large scale, which is of a high energy cost;
  • Obtain a high quality of water supplied to the entire population;
  • Achieve water saving without affecting the quality of life;
  • Improve the water cycle; purifying and reusing wastewater to maximum possible.

A high level of campaigning was needed to involve the public in what has essentially been a transformative experience for the island and its inhabitants. The challenge of providing a water supply to a growing population of both quality and quantity without impoverishment or salting inland aquifers, required innovative solutions and the support of the island, regional and national authorities.

Results achieved

The steps taken were truly innovative in nature and the Island has transformed from being in a position of uncertain water dependency to self sufficiency through investment in new technology and renewable energy sources, as well as transparency and advocacy that was inclusive of the islands people. In 1993 the project started use of a reverse Osmosis process, which at the time was the most advanced technology available. The following year a sewage treatment plant was constructed, capable of purifying half the water in the region. By 1999 the patent reverse Osmosis plant had achieved water quality equivalent to drinking-water and was used for irrigation and greenhouses in the area. Innovation continued and the Island saw the introduction of both a wind farm to supply the treatment plant and a solar park to supply the desalination plant. In this respect, the treatment of water is being powered by renewable energy initiatives and the Island has become a World leader in the comprehensive pairing of water and energy.

The combination of renewable energy, desalination of sea water, purification of sources, reuse in agriculture and urban green spaces produce a circle of sustainability that affects and includes all people, in all its activities and the environment environment.

Category 2

1st ranked: NEWater Programme, Singapore

>> More information about the initiative "NEWater Programme, Singapore"

2nd ranked: Safe Water and AIDS Project (SWAP), Kenya


Created in June 2006 SWAP aims to improve the health and socio-economic status of Kenyan people through disease prevention and socio-economic empowerment of the target population. It aims at improving the quality of life of the vulnerable in the community by building their capacities and supporting them to develop profitable health oriented micro-enterprises.

The project

The goal of this project is to scale up an effective, financially sustainable system of health oriented micro enterprises that increases adoption and use of water treatment, storage, handwashing soaps as well as other health and hygiene products in low-income, rural communities, while simultaneously creating local income-generating opportunities, in Nyanza and Western provinces of Kenya. This is achieved through the following:

  • Increasing access to health and hygiene products;
  • Increasing access to information about health and safe water;
  • Training the community members on how to develop healthy habits;
  • Building the physical facilities and providing initial equipment;
  • Providing the initial stock of health and hygiene products;
  • Conducting of training of Community Health Promoters.

Results achieved

SWAP has evidence of the positive health and economic impact from various effectiveness studies done by the research department. A 2-year study demonstrated that the use and visible presence in the home of water treatment products sold by SWAP more than doubled, from 23% to over 50%. Use of water treatment products also increased significantly among women with children enrolled in a program to provide hygiene kits as an incentive to attend immunization clinics. Water treatment and hygiene knowledge and practices of schoolchildren and their parents also improved in a 2-year study of a school-based program. SWAP has seen a decrease in reported biweekly diarrhea prevalence in children less than 3 years old from 10% at baseline to 1% two years later. In addition, the population in the area of intervention no longer experiences cholera outbreaks.

SWAP has also sold more than 2500 locally-produced improved cook stoves that use less wood, cook faster, produce less visible household smoke, and modestly lower emissions of 2.5 micron particles.

SWAP by the end of 2012 was paying off 65% of its operations and salaries from revenue from sales. Community Health Promoters are recognized by the local leaders and have become useful members of society.

3rd ranked: Pan in the Van – an onsite capacity building & awareness generation approach for inclusive WASH, India


With the objectives of addressing the poor status of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), the Energy, Environment and Development Society (EEDS) developed this approach with the support of UNICEF.

The status of WASH in India is very poor, with only 31% of the population having access to improved sanitation and 665 million people practicing open defecation. Despite huge investments there has been little improvement, which has been attributed to ineffective approaches that are monotonous and lack focus. To address the issues relating to the poor status of WASH, EEDS introduced an onsite and inclusive approach that could be easily monitored and tested, known as ‘Pan in the Van.’

The project

The PAN denotes hardware and VAN is onsite software. It is a comprehensive collection of tools especially designed to invoke community participation and cater to the needs of the different actors in a village scenario, particularly for demand generation, capacity development, team building, governance improvement, demonstration of technological options, and strengthening of supply chain. It not only facilitates action planning and community review but also provides support.

The aim of the Pan in the Van approach is to accelerate the Total Sanitation Campaign addressing the gaps prevailing in capacity building and behaviour changing communication efforts. It offers a complete package for achieving and maintaining total sanitation, cost effectively. The project used the following four step approach:

  • Step 1 – Health Communication – involving rapport building and preparation for the camps, including health surveys and a health check up with a qualified Doctor;
  • Step 2 – Three Day Panchayat Level Camp – awareness generation, motivation and involvement of local authorities. The 12 tools relating to sanitation would be introduced and demonstrated along with a community monitoring system.
  • Step 3 – Strengthening local delivery system.
  • Step 4 – Hygiene day and Community Review – introduce the 3 tools to study water balance and encourage a transparent system that can be monitored.

Results achieved

The project promoted transparency and information in the public domain. For many women, it was the first opportunity for them to explore their roles in governance outside of the confinement of their households.

It earned visibility and invoked public debate on the issue, especially Open Defecation, the ‘dirty issues’ of toilets, excreta and garbage.

Households started storing drinking water in a safer and more hygienic manner. Service providers were also provided new ways of reaching the community.

It promoted the inclusion of women and marginalised groups through tailored and intentional opportunities.

The camps improved the sanitation coverage in 120 villages, 100 Aganwadis (pre-school children development centers), 240 schools and around 20,000 households. These camps provided opportunities for about 12,000 women and girls to actively learn and participate in the improvement of the sanitary status of their community, and also capacitate 100 Anganwadi workers, 700 school teachers and 40,000 school children.