Water Currents: Water Safety Plans

Water Currents is produced biweekly by USAID’s E3 Water Office. Each issue contains recent news and articles on water sector issues, partner and donor updates, latest sector research, and a special focus on one topic. Please provide your feedback and suggestions by contacting the waterteam@usaid.gov.

Water Safety Plans (WSPs) were introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2004 as a health-based, risk assessment approach to managing drinking water quality. WSPs identify potential threats to water quality at each step in the water supply chain and are recognized as the most reliable and effective way to manage drinking water supplies to safeguard public health. This issue contains primarily 2016 and 2017 publications from WHO, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the International Water Association (IWA), and others as well as links to WSP-related websites.


Water Currents - In Focus


Global Status Report on Water Safety Plans: A Review of Proactive Risk Assessment and Risk Management Practices to Ensure the Safety of Drinking-WaterWHOIWA, June 2017. Based on information gathered from 118 countries representing every region of the globe, this report provides a picture of WSP uptake worldwide. It describes challenges and future priorities of WSP implementation and how to integrate WSPs into the policy environment. The report is intended for policymakers, practitioners, and other stakeholders to inform and strengthen the planning and practice of WSP implementation.

Water Safety Planning for Urban Water Utilities: Practical Guide for ADB StaffAsian Development Bank, May 2017. This handbook serves as a guide for integrating the WSP approach into ADB's urban water projects. It breaks down the steps for developing and implementing a WSP using guidelines, templates, evaluation criteria, and terms of reference for early technical assessments and project preparatory technical assistance stage.

Water Safety: One of the Primary Objectives of Our TimeRevista Ambiente & Água, January/February 2017. This article discusses the lessons learned in the application of WSPs since they were first established in 2004, citing the experiences of Italy, as well as countries with limited resources. The author argues that WSPs, while having room for improvement, have largely proven to be an effective model for managing drinking water systems.

Risk Management for Drinking Water Safety in Low and Middle Income Countries: Cultural Influences on Water Safety Plan (WSP) Implementation in Urban Water UtilitiesScience of the Total Environment, January 2017. Few researchers have considered cultural influences on WSP implementation. An analysis of three WSP pilots in India, Uganda, and Jamaica helped researchers frame 12 cultural themes that enable, limit, or are neutral to WSP implementation, while reinforcing the general need for cultural attentiveness during WSP design.

Systematic Risk Management Approach of Household Drinking Water from the Source to Point of UseJournal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, June 2017. The WSP approach is being widely adopted as a model to improve the safety of drinking water. However, the approach has not been widely used in places like rural South Africa, where people have to collect water away from their home and still consume unsafe water despite WSP implementation. This study assessed the risks of water contamination from collection to point of consumption, and showed how intermittent water supply, access to unsafe water, and poor hygiene practices contribute to household water contamination.

Chemical Mixtures in Source Water and Drinking-WaterWHO, 2017.  Drinking water and its sources invariably contain a number of chemicals, as a result of both natural occurrence and as a consequence of human activity.  This document provides an overview of tools and recommendations to support the assessment and management of risks associated with chemicals mixtures in drinking-water.

Water Quality and Health Review of Turbidity:  Information for Regulators and Water SuppliersWHO, 2017. Turbidity—the measure of clarity of a liquid— is an important parameter that should be included in WSPs to manage water quality.  This technical brief provides information on the uses and significance of turbidity in source water and drinking water, as well as practical guidance on the implications of turbidity for water safety at each step of the water supply chain.

Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality (GDWQ): Fourth Edition Incorporating the First AddendumWHO, 2017. The fourth edition of the WHO GDWQ builds on over 50 years of guidance by WHO on drinking-water quality. It is the product of significant revisions to clarify and elaborate on ways of implementing its recommendations.

Protecting Surface Water for Health: Identifying, Assessing and Managing Drinking-Water Quality Risks in Surface-Water CatchmentsWHO, 2016. This book offers guidance on the development and application of WSPs to assess and control surface-water hazards in drinking-water catchments, and provides a structured approach to understanding surface water and their catchments as a basis for providing safe drinking-water.

To What Extent is Drinking Water Tested in Sub-Saharan Africa? A Comparative Analysis of Regulated Water Quality Monitoring. International Journal of Environmental Resources and Public Health, March 2016. Water quality information is important for guiding water safety management and preventing water-related diseases. Results of this study indicate that smaller water providers and rural public health offices will require greater attention and additional resources to achieve regulatory compliance for water quality monitoring in sub-Saharan Africa.

Climate Resilient Water Safety Plan Implementation: Guidelines for Urban Utility Managed Piped Drinking Water SuppliesFederal Republic of Ethiopia, Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, July 2015. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide step-by-step guidance to the operators and managers of large, medium, and small urban water supplies with conventional water treatment systems on how to develop, implement, monitor, and review the water safety plans aimed at protecting human health.

Climate Resilient Water Safety Plan Implementation: Guidelines for Community Managed Rural Drinking Water Supplies Federal Republic of Ethiopia, Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, July 2015. These guidelines provide step-by-step guidance on how to develop, implement, monitor, and review rural community managed water safety plans aimed at protecting human health.

Drinking Water is Not Sufficiently Tested for Microbial Contamination in Sub-Saharan AfricaAquaya, 2016. Monitoring for Safe Water (MfSW) is a research program that promotes drinking water safety through improved monitoring. This brief summarizes the results of an in-depth analysis by MfSW researchers of regulated monitoring activities in sub-Saharan Africa to clarify how water quality data is collected.

Water Safety Plan: A Field Guide to Improving Drinking-Water Safety in Small CommunitiesWHO Regional Office for Europe, 2014. This field guide provides a step-by-step introduction to the WSP approach and a range of ready-to-use templates to assist those locally involved in rural water supply to develop and implement their own WSPs


Water Safety Planning Resources – Provides a complete list of WHO water safety planning resources.

Water Safety Portal – Maintained by WHO and IWA, this site contains links to WSP training materials, publications, and information on upcoming WSP events.

Water Safety Plan Implementation in Africa – IWA supports water service providers in 16 African countries with training programs and tools, and facilitates partnerships with utilities to support WSP implementation.


Water Currents - In the News

Nine Ways the Private Sector Can Use Water More EfficientlyThe Guardian, June 27, 2017. In this article a panel of experts give their ideas on how industries such as textiles and agriculture can save water.

Water Treatment Could Be Damaging DNAHippocratic Post, June 23, 2017. Water treatment is vital to maintain human health, but a method widely used in developing countries could be damaging the DNA of those drinking it.

Protecting Water Could Mean Advancing Peace & ProsperityWorld Wildlife Fund (WWF), June 27, 2017. In this article two WWF experts, David Reed and Karin Krchnak, discuss the link between fresh water and national security.

Handwashing Prevents Childhood Illness, but Most Families in Low-Income Countries Lack Soap at HomeUniversity at Buffalo News Center, June 23, 2017.  A new study led by University at Buffalo researchers with USAID, UNICEF, and others shows that handwashing behavior must be improved substantially in low- and middle-income countries. Using data from 51 nationally representative surveys, researchers identified the proportion of households in which soap and water was present at a handwashing place in the home. The percentages range from less than 0.1 percent in Ethiopia to 96.4 percent in Serbia.

Waste Management in Asia: 1 Goal, 5 Cities, 5 LessonsAsian Development Blog, June 23, 2017. The current approach to solid waste management in many small to mid-sized cities in Asia is insufficient. A more pragmatic approach—fixing landfills, improving efficiency, establishing public-private partnerships—complemented with thorough planning and innovative financing, is the best way forward.

Changing the Village, Changing the CountryWorld Bank Water Blog, June 27, 2017. India’s government and The World Bank are together creating a knowledge-sharing and learning platform to support the Swachh Bharat Mission and change behaviors. The approach is based on the belief that many excellent local sanitation solutions exist and can be replicated across the country.

If you would like to feature your organization's materials or suggest other content for upcoming issues of Water Currents, please send them to Dan Campbell, Knowledge Creation/WASH Specialist, at dcampbell@waterckm.com.