How do you get households to connect to existing sewer networks?


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  • issantos
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Re: How do you get households to connect to existing sewer networks?

Dear Meleesa,

Connections are called regular when the following four conditions are identified, according to Brazil's national and local legislation:

1 - Sewage effluents are being layed in public sewage system;
2 - Rainwater is not been layed in public sewage system;
3 - Household is not using a septic tank;
4 - Household has a grease tank (trap) according to standards established in technical norms.

Whenever any of these situations above is not identifyed by the agents, it is considered irregular. Once notified, users have two weeks to resolve it. In case they don’t, municipal environmental agencies take other measures (notification) related to their responsibilities. No fees are established.

I'd be glad to know the results of your review. Thank you
Igor Schutz dos Santos
CASAN - Brazil
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  • meleesa
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  • I work for the Rural Water Supply Network Secretariat, and for Skat Consulting, on water supply and sanitation / water resources management
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Re: How do you get households to connect to existing sewer networks?

Thank you all for your inputs. We have referred to several examples shared on this post for a guidance note, and hope to be able to share it with you soon.
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  • Freya
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Re: How do you get households to connect to existing sewer networks?

Dear Meleesa,
Great to see the interesting discussion and examples from various countries as I was involved in the WSP study in Indonesia and Vietnam.
Just wondering whether you had any update/findings from this research that you could share?

Kind Regards
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  • meleesa
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Re: How do you get households to connect to existing sewer networks?

Dear all, I just wanted to share the publication from the World Bank on this topic which was just released on World Toilet Day:
with many thanks to the SuSanA forum members for all their contributions, which are acknowledged in this document.
Happy reading!
Best wishes
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: How do you get households to connect to existing sewer networks?

Thanks Meleesa!

It's nice when an old thread is re-vitalised or is receiving "closure".

I am copying below the summary text about the publication so that this thread can be more easily found with keyword searches:

The report reveals that there are a number of reasons why households may not connect to sewerage systems.

Firstly, many households suffer from a lack of money to pay the sewer connection fees, to install the necessary complementary plumbing within the house, or to pay the subsequent monthly bills related to the sewer service once connected. Most unconnected households are poor: for example, in Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Uruguay, access rates across the region are more than 40% lower for the poorest fifth of the population than for the richest fifth.

Secondly, there is often a lack of information or a surplus of bureaucracy. Some utilities offer little orientation about how households can go about connecting to the sewer network, or they provide guidance that is unclear or unhelpful – other service providers simply leave it to the households to connect themselves. The processes of some utilities are overly complicated with too much paperwork required by too many authorities. Meanwhile, less than a third of the global population have legally registered rights to their land and homes, which creates further barriers.

Finally, social norms, or a lack of incentives, may discourage households from connecting. If community leaders and other influential figures in the community do not connect to the sewer, others might feel that they also need not connect. Households will often have their own sanitation system in place, and are likely unaware of the negative impacts it could be having on the health of their family and their community as well as on the wider environment. Having an ad hoc sanitation system in place, while not understanding its drawbacks, can lead to residents feeling risk-averse about change.

But not only is safe removal of wastewater from all parts of a city critical to the physical and economic wellbeing of the residents, it is also important to the city as a whole. If residents are too sick to work, cities will have lower economic productivity. If public health is poor, there will be greater demand for essential medical services. If cities are unsanitary, there will be lost opportunities for recreation and tourism. And if households don’t connect to sewer networks, the wastewater treatment plants which the sewers feed, will be underloaded and will not function properly, negatively impacting their operational efficiency.

Furthermore, if households are not connected and therefore not paying sewer tariffs, the utility which manages the sewer networks and treatment plants receives less revenue which can lead to inadequate operation and deferred maintenance of the sewerage and the treatment plant infrastructure, and its eventual deterioration, such that a community’s environmental pollution and associated public health further suffer .

So, connecting unconnected households to existing and new sewerage networks can provide society with numerous and varied benefits. And the report systematically outlines approaches to making this a reality by drawing on good global experiences.

Firstly, focus on the customer. Investment projects frequently focus too much on the pipes and not enough on the people. Households should be engaged early in the process of designing a new sewerage project or developing a sewer connection program – and such engagement should be undertaken by those with credibility and social capital in the community. As a result of such outreach, households should be made fully aware of all of the opportunities and the implications of having a sewerage connection, and should be given the space to outline their specific needs and preferences. The lessons gleaned from such outreach should shape the solutions employed in the sewerage program. Start conversations before starting the design, and certainly before starting to dig.   

Secondly, shift the mindset from ‘the last mile’ to ‘the last meters. It is necessary, but not sufficient, to provide the public sewerage infrastructure to communities – the connections from the sewers to the households themselves are just as important. Going the last meters means understanding why so many connections are inactive, are blocked or do not exist in the first place, and eliminating the bottlenecks causing these situations. It also means proactively assessing situations where household connections are feasible but are absent, and developing an approach to understand and rectify this. And it means being innovative and adaptable – by looking at non-conventional options for getting households connected and by working with the full range of stakeholders to help identify and deliver flexible solutions that will allow all households to connect. Adopting such approaches will help ensure that every household which has the potential to be connected to the sewer system ends up actually being connected.

Finally, the identification of champions at different levels can greatly help move a sewerage connection program forward. High-profile and influential decision-makers can play an important role in shaping the thinking of cities and utilities when it comes to rolling out sewerage connections. When individuals across the ranks of the implementing organizations understand and embrace these ideas, they advocate for their importance, which creates a virtuous cycle and leads to more efficient program design and implementation. Similarly, leaders at the local level can help contribute to a program’s success but mobilizing the community and leading by example. And when households see and appreciate the benefits of having a sewer connection – having been fully engaged and consulted in the design and implementation process – they can vouch for its positive impacts to their neighbors.

Such results at scale are achievable, and their benefits can be life-changing. When it comes to connecting households to sewer lines, those final few meters can make a whole world of difference.


I was curious what the guide said about laws and regulations. I think most of the wealthy countries have laws in place that you have to connect to a sewer system if there is one for your property. I found this:

- In the Philippines, strong enforcement by the Department of the Environment and local governments ensures
compliance with mandatory sewerage connection laws.
- Ecuador case study: Legal tools - Laws, regulations, and municipal ordinances established the obligation to connect to the network wherever there was access.
- Tamil Nadu, India: Municipal bylaws in ULBs mandate that all households within 100 meters of a sewerage network to connect
to sewers. This provides the legal framework for urban local bodies to push households to connect to sewers. Close monitoring by Commissionerate of Municipal Administration ensures that projects achieve/maximize house service connections.

I think involvement of the community during the design phase of a sewer system is really important. But once all the consultative processes are completed and a good solution is found (hopefully), then at the end, connection to the sewer system and paying fees should be mandatory, not optional. If the sewer system is unaffordable for many of the community members then it was the wrong choice to start with.

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Ulm, Germany
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