IWA Publishing

Environmentally sustainable WASH? Current discourse, planetary boundaries and future directions

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

The significant challenge of achieving safe, reliable and continuous service delivery has been a focus of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector in recent years, with less attention given to other important sustainability considerations such as environmental sustainability. The agenda set by the Sustainable Development Goals prompts a wider lens, bringing water resource management and ecosystem conservation together with water and sanitation access targets in one integrated goal. As we grapple with our approach to this new agenda, it is timely to reflect on how we, as a sector, engage with environmental sustainability. This paper reviews recent literature at the intersection of WASH and environmental sustainability to identify current themes and future directions. Analysis of academic and non-academic sources was undertaken and then situated with reference to the planetary boundaries framework as a useful lens to ground the socio-ecological systems and processes upon which environmental sustainability depends. Findings point to both opportunities and gaps within current sector thinking, which can drive leadership from knowledge and research institutions towards better integration of access and environmental sustainability imperatives.

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