The University of Technology Sydney, Institute for Sustainable Futures 

(Type 1) Research: WRA1004

Research focus: Transitioning to safely-managed water services in self-supply contexts: Risks and opportunities for vulnerable populations in urban Indonesia and climate-affected Vanuatu

Project theme: Safely managed water and safely managed sanitation

Locations: Indonesia and Vanuatu

Partners: Universitas Indonesia, University of the South Pacific, UNICEF Indonesia and Vanuatu, Bappenas Indonesia, the Department of Water Resources in Vanuatu, SNV in Indonesia and local government in all study sites, including Kota Bekasi and Kota Metro in Indonesia.

Key Research Questions: 

How should transitions to safely-managed water services for all respond to widespread on-premises self-supply in Asia-Pacific?

i) What is the prevalence of self-supply, and associated trends and typologies in the Asia and Pacific region, and at national and sub-national level in Indonesia and Vanuatu?

ii) What are the drivers and barriers affecting poor households’ use of self-supply sources, taking account of socio-economic, environmental, financial, institutional, behavioural and gender-related factors?

iii) What are the service levels (water quality, availability) provided by self-supply, the determining factors (e.g. climate, sanitation) and the health, welfare and gender implications?

iv) How can policy and practice respond to minimise risks and maximise benefits? What are the implications for sector financing?

Research Description:

This research evaluates risks and opportunities associated with on-premises, self-supply water sources and how they might support or undermine transitions towards safely-managed services for poor households across Asia-Pacific. The work focuses on areas lacking piped water, including densely-populated low-income urban areas in Indonesia and small climate-affected islands in Vanuatu.

Indonesia and Vanuatu have both made significant progress in access to basic/improved water sources, hence it is timely to define pathways to safely‐managed services that will benefit all. Densely populated settlements in Indonesia (using shallow groundwater) and small climate‐affected islands in Vanuatu (using rainwater and shallow groundwater) present challenges faced widely across Asia‐Pacific.

More than 800 million people in Asia-Pacific depend on self-supply sources that are owned, managed and invested in by individual households. However, they are unregulated, unmonitored and little is known about the extent to which they provide safely-managed water services to poor households.

This research will support policymakers and practitioners engage with self-supply and associated risks and opportunities towards transitions to safely-managed services for all. The work seeks to understand self-supply water sources in terms of:

(i) prevalence, trends and typologies;

(ii) conditions that influence their adoption among poor households

(iii) their quality, reliability and cost, the factors that impact these parameters (especially sanitation and climate) and implications for health and gender; and

(iv) appropriate policy responses and practices to minimise risks, maximise benefits and inform sector financing. Gender and inclusion will be central themes for all lines of enquiry

“Understanding and addressing self-supply in urban Indonesia is critical if efforts by government and development partners are to achieve safe and equitable drinking water for all. More than half of urban Indonesian households rely on water from their own well or borehole, with dependence particularly high among the poorest households. This research collaboration will shed light on the water quality and reliability issues that poor households face – including the potential adverse impact of poor sanitation and climate change – and chart a pathway forward for governments at multiple levels to engage with this issue. The research outcomes will also contribute to regional and global discussions around practical guidance for incremental improvements in service levels to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Mitsu Odagiri, UNICEF Indonesia


This transdisciplinary research is a collaboration between Water for Women and academia (University of Technology Sydney - Institute for Sustainable Futures, the University of the South Pacific, the University of Indonesia and Universitas Muhammadiyah Metro), government (Bappenas Indonesia and the Department of Water Resources in Vanuatu) and development partners (UNICEF in both countries and at a regional level, and SNV in Indonesia). The research team will also work closely with local government in all study sites, including Kota Bekasi and Kota Metro in Indonesia.



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Innovation & Impact


In 2021, this project was awarded an Innovation and Impact grant to further strengthen the use of new evidence, innovation and practice in sustainable and inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and, in doing so, contribute to improved learning and practice globally.


Led by the University of Technology Sydney, Institute for Sustainable Futures, this Innovation and Impact project extends the research analysis of the existing project to provide country-level resources and stronger engagement with UNICEF and governments across Asia and the Pacific, enhancing awareness and understanding of self-supply in the region.


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