Governance & governability of decentralised sustainable sanitation systems in Bolivia

Essential Workers

Decentralised Sustainable Sanitation (DSS) is a new model of sanitation being implemented in Bolivia and has four main advantages that surpass those of traditional models (provided that the hydrological cycle is closed):

  • Rational use of water resources, combating climate change.

  • Positive impact on people's health.

  • Prevention of environmental degradation.

  • Poverty reduction (through benefits for agriculture).

The most common technologies used in Bolivian DSS are Ecological Dry Toilets and Decentralised Wastewater Treatment and the implementation is not limited to rural areas. There are numerous examples of successful interventions in suburban areas. The success of the interventions lies in the effective involvement of multiple public and private stakeholders. Rules regarding functions, duties and rights of participants are established from the beginning together with institutional arrangements and mechanisms that promote multi-level and multi-stakeholder collective action. All these elements make the basis of DSS GOVERNANCE.

In order to find out if the selected management model fits the socio-cultural context of the intervention area and whether the rules are effectively designed and met, we have developed a detailed DSS Governance study.

The study is essentially an analysis of the national water and sanitation institutional capacity that supports the implementation of DSS from national policy to the challenge of universal coverage for the entire Bolivian population. In addition, it has helped identify the existing institutional arrangements and mechanisms of collective action among public and private actors.

In each case we noticed that governance was enriched by the continued participation of beneficiaries and the commitment of the public, academic and local private stakeholders who each have a clear role in the sanitation chain. Moreover, we have identified a clear trend towards stronger state support at all management levels.

The analysis has confirmed that DSS is a viable quality system to complement conventional sanitation in suburban areas and it requires a joint effort. Discussing governance is a paramount step in increasing the sustainability, scalability and replicability of DSS over time.

To read more about the topic, check out the REUSSO magazine (in Spanish).