Harnessing Data for Water Security: An Update from the USAID WSSH D&A Initiative

Illustration of waterways and data flowing from a mountainous area through a valley and into a village. Photo credit: Image generated by DALL-E3, a product of OpenAI.

Written by Katy Sill, Ph.D. | Chief of Party, USAID WSSH Data & Analytics

As we reflect on the first six months since the launch of the USAID Water Security, Sanitation, and Hygiene Data & Analytics (WSSH D&A) activity, we are pleased to share an update from the team. We are excited to now have in place a robust Advisory Council, and in the coming months, we will be seeking input from practitioners to help define sector knowledge gaps and priorities, kicking off our quarterly webinar series to highlight existing data efforts to help improve routine decisions, and launching our first decision support tool.

Our Approach to Leveraging Data for WASH and WRM

The core belief driving WSSH D&A is that one of the key approaches for improving the efficiency and equity of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and water resource management (WRM) programs is the effective use of data for evidence-based decisions. WSSH D&A is structured around four objectives designed to strengthen the data landscape, enable data-informed decision-making, monitor the impact of USAID's systems-strengthening investments, and provide customized decision support. We plan to reach these objectives by convening sector stakeholders to help identify barriers and opportunities for accelerating data use and to share learnings from a range of experiences; highlighting and supporting promising existing data efforts; and developing new innovative decision-support tools. While we recognize the importance of each step in the greater data ecosystem, WSSH D&A is focused on enabling the increased use of existing data to improve decision making through supporting new and existing efforts which enable more effective data analysis and integration of results in decision-making processes.

Addressing Data Gaps and Priorities

Based on findings from an internal USAID assessment, we are planning to develop three specific decision support tools (Table 1) that align with recognized gaps within the sector, i.e., how to best demonstrate the tangible impact of WASH services on other sectors, how to best select a focus for WASH/WRM investments at the national scale, and how to best select specific districts for program implementation. We are currently engaging with USAID staff and implementing partners regarding user interest and requirements and will continue to engage with these and other stakeholders to confirm a consistent demand for these tools.

Table 1. Planned WSSH D&A Decision Support Tools


Decision Support Tool

Use Case

WASH Scenario
Forecast Exploration

A USAID country WASH lead would use this tool to understand the possible impact of accelerating or decelerating access to WASH services on access rates, as well as broader development results, such as heath, prosperity, and stability.

Country Context
Benchmarking Dashboard

A USAID country WASH lead would use this tool to understand topics, aligned with the Strategic Objectives and Intermediate Results of the Global Water Strategy, for which a given country is relatively ahead of its peers or has a relatively significant need for investment.

District Level
Prioritization Tool

A USAID country WASH lead would use this tool to identify optimal locations for implementation when designing an activity. The tool could also be used by an implementer looking to optimize the location for activity implementation if not specified in a solicitation. This will be done by identifying relevant characteristics and calculating an aggregate index score to identify the districts that most strongly align with the identified characteristics.

In addition to developing and launching these new tools, the WSSH D&A team will host a series of webinars to introduce our target audiences to existing tools to facilitate data-driven decisions. Later this year, we also anticipate launching a Request for Applications (RFA) for a small grants program to provide funding for promising digital public goods that support use of WSSH data and facilitate increased data sharing and use by sector actors.

Tapping Sector Leaders to Guide WSSH D&A

Helping guide the overall strategic direction of WSSH D&A is the Advisory Council, comprising distinguished leaders across the WASH and WRM data space. The Council includes Alyse Schrecongost from the Gates Foundation, Deepa Karthykeyan of Athena Infonomics, Frank Kizito of the Uganda National Water and Sewerage Corporation, Liz Saccoccia from the World Resources Institute, Marieke Adank of IRC WASH, Muthi Nhlema from BASEflow, Rachel Peletz of The Aquaya Institute, Rajit Ojha from the Nepal Department of Water Supply and Sewerage Management, Styvers Kathuni of the Millennium Water Alliance-Kenya, and Yvonne Magawa from the Eastern & Southern Africa Water and Sanitation Regulators Association. The collective expertise and leadership from this Council will be instrumental in shaping the initiative’s research and strategic engagements.

We are excited to work with stakeholders throughout the WASH and WRM sectors to accelerate the use of data for efficient and equitable impacts. Subscribe to Global Waters for news and updates from WSSH D&A or follow us on LinkedIn and X.

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USAID Water Security, Sanitation, and Hygiene Data & Analytics Activity