About WaterSHED


“…that everyone is enabled to adopt appropriate water, sanitation and hygiene related behaviours.”


“WaterSHED engages local enterprises and government in the development of sustainable market-based approaches that empower households to be active and informed consumers of water, sanitation and hygiene products and services.”


“We believe integrity comes first; we strive for the highest efficiency and quality in our work; and we promote leadership at all levels.”

WaterSHED operates in the Mekong region of Southeast Asia. We provide business development services to local enterprises such as training and marketing support, research and design of new products and offerings, and we conduct research related to social, behavioral, and financial aspects of the adoption of WASH products and services. We strive to engage local government in every aspect of our work, and place emphasis on continually supporting government’s leadership role. Combining the best practices from the commercial sector and the development world, WaterSHED is building sustainable business systems to improve the health and livelihoods of rural people.

WaterSHED has pioneered the Hands-Off model of private sector engagement, enabled the unsubsidized purchase by consumers of more than 100,000 household latrines, developed a cutting-edge leadership development program for local government officials, designed and launched the world’s first handwashing device manufactured for Base-of-Pyramid consumers, incubated two leading social enterprises in point-of-use water treatment, and much more. We are ambitious about our objectives and are striving to take our initiatives to the next level for massive, multi-country impact. We embrace commercial approaches, believe in the power of leadership, and invest in enabling technologies to support healthy behaviours to become social norms. WaterSHED has been featured in The Economist and the Huffington Post, and is a twice winner of USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures competition, a winner of Canada Grand Challenges Stars in Global Public Health, and 1st prize winner of the Reed Elsevier Environmental Challenge.

Lack of access to safe water, proper sanitation and effective hygiene is an on-going global health and development crisis resulting in millions of deaths and massive infectious disease morbidity burdens affecting billions of persons annually. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly one-tenth of the global disease burden could be prevented by improving water supply, sanitation, hygiene, and the management of water resources. Inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene account for roughly 94 percent of the 4 billion cases of diarrhea that WHO estimates to occur globally each year. Children under the age of 5 in developing countries bear the greatest burden, accounting for the majority of the 1.5 million deaths attributed to diarrhea annually.


USAID’s foundational support for WaterSHED was to build a program that promoted increased access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene in Southeast Asia using commercial channels. The WaterSHED program – which stands for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Enterprise Development – originally began as a public-private partnership led by UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. Between 2009 and 2012, USAID funded WaterSHED through its Global Development Alliance (GDA), a program designed to harness the power of the marketplace to create economic opportunities, improve health outcomes, and promote sustainable models for financing development.

The WaterSHED program’s overall implementation strategy was to:

  1. Develop, test and implement financially-sustainable business models for delivering effective and affordable Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WSH) products and services to lower-income market segments;
  2. Strengthen and leverage the capacity of local entrepreneurs to deliver WSH products and services sustainably and profitably;
  3. Assess and document the ability of commercial enterprises to increase the sustained and proper use of WSH products and services; and,
  4. Collaborate with WSH partners through multiple platforms to develop marketing and other strategies and tools for scale-up and replication of public-private mechanisms focused on commercialization.