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Water Supply and Sanitation Policy in Developing Countries

This course will examine current conditions and trends in water and sanitation services in low and middle income countries. Within it we will take a critical look at the underlying political, economic, social, and technical reasons why almost a billion people lack access to improved water supplies and almost 2 billion still do not have improved sanitation services.


Course at a Glance

About the Course

This first part of a two-part series of courses critically examines the consequences of current water and sanitation conditions, including over 2 million deaths annually due to water-related diseases, millions of dollars in avoidable health care expenditures, and billions of hours spent carrying water from sources outside the home. Reducing such costs associated with poor water and sanitation services is one of the major challenges for States in the low and middle income countries in the 21st century. The technologies to provide networked water and sanitation services are well-known, as are many low-cost, non-network solutions that would appear affordable to many poor households in developing countries. For decades the international community and national governments have struggled to find institutional and financial arrangements to provide these technologies to households and businesses in developing countries, with mixed success. Although progress is being made in many parts of the world, millions of households in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia still face a lifetime without the improved water and sanitation services that citizens in industrialized countries take for granted.

The second part will focus on what can be done to solve global water and sanitation problems. We will examine the main strategies that donors and national governments have tried to change status quo water and sanitation conditions, and the lessons learned from these experiences.

Course Syllabus

Part 1: Problem Diagnosis – Lectures, Videos, Online discussion

  • Week 1: Introduction – Current patterns and future trends in coverage of both network infrastructure and non-piped solutions in urban and rural areas of the low and middle income countries
  • Week 2: Political Economy – Water markets, water vending systems, corruption
  • Week 3: Supply – Technological options available and the associated costs of providing improved water and sanitation services
  • Week 4: Demand – Understanding household water and sanitation behavior
  • Week 5: Outcomes and climate change
  • Week 6: Water Development Paths

Recommended Background

This course is recommended to students with a wide background, including engineering, public health, business, geography, economics, planning, sociology, anthropology, and political science.

Suggested Readings

Selected readings will be provided to enrolled students.


Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?
Yes, students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

Do I need to buy any textbooks?
No, the selected material will be provided.

What is the format of the class?
Lectures, videos, exercises, online discussion