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Community-Led Initiatives and SDG6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Community-led initiatives often approach water management in holistic perspective, with water provision (for domestic, agricultural and other uses) and sanitation being integrated into wider water management systems at community and landscape scale. [1] Research in the UK and Ireland shows high levels of public support for greater inclusivity and community empowerment in relation to planning and decision-making in water management; community-level control over water provision and sanitation infrastructures as well as wider catchment management can make important contributions to this.[2] A survey of 29 showcase ecovillages by Global Ecovillage Network, found that all but one were actively working to conserve, restore and/or replenish stores of freshwater. The most common techniques were efficient irrigation systems combined with mulching to reduce water evaporation from soil (73% of reported cases), behavioural measures such as mindful showering to avoid unecessary water use in domestic contexts (70%), capture and storage of rainwater (67%) and recycling of greywater (63%).[3]

In Tamera Ecovillage in the Alentejo region of Portugal, water management is a central ecological topic. The community develops and tests a wide variety of infrastructures for water retention in the landscape and usage within the community, and promotes wider discussion, reflection and innovation through yearly and various forms of collaboration with internationally recognised authorities as well as testing a wide variety of infrastructures to support and enhance the short water cycles and its storage.[4][5]

Other general approaches include:

  • Direct collection of rainwater combined with effective systems its storage of water, reallocation among households, biological and physical retention and treatment and reuse of rainwater.[6][7]
  • Reuse of treated wastewater (black and grey water) for agricultal and domestic purposes, often combined with use of composting toilets and other sanitation methods that reduce water inputs, allow hygenic onsite processing of waste and allow organic matter to be retained within and/or returned to local ecosystems, and provide new potential for installation of effective sanitation systems in sites remote from central infrastructure.[8][9][10][11] as well as more rural and less "infrastructured" places [12]
  • Nature-based sewage treatment facilities such as Biomatrix, developed at Findhorn Ecovillage in Scotland.


  1. Henfrey, T., Penha-Lopes, G., 2015. Permaculture and climate change adaptation. Permanent Publications, East Meon, Hampshire. Pp. 37-38.
  2. Rolston, A., Jennings, E., Linnane, S., 2017. Water matters: An assessment of opinion on water management and community engagement in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. PLOS ONE 12.
  3. Kovasna, A., Mattos, T., 2017. GEN Ecovillage Impact Assessment Pilot Study. Initial Results of 29 Showcase Ecovillages. Global Ecovillage Network. P. 36.
  4. Vizinho, A., Campos, I., Alves, Filipe M., Fonseca, Ana L., Penha-Lopes, Gil, 2015. Adaptation to Drought in Alentejo, Portugal (Case Study). BASE FP7 Project.
  5. Anderson, J., 2011. The Future of Water: Halting desertification, restoring ecosystems, and nourishing communities. Communities 32: 74.
  6. Barani, Shahrzad, Amir Hossein Alibeygi, and Abdolhamid Papzan. “A Framework to Identify and Develop Potential Ecovillages: Meta-Analysis from the Studies of World’s Ecovillages.” Sustainable Cities and Society 43 (November 2018): 275–89.
  7. Tomičić, I., Schatten, M., 2016. Agent-based framework for modeling and simulation of resources in self-sustainable human settlements: a case study on water management in an eco-village community in Croatia. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology 23, 504–513.
  8. Wielemaker, R.C., Weijma, J., Zeeman, G., 2018. Harvest to harvest: Recovering nutrients with New Sanitation systems for reuse in Urban Agriculture. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 128, 426–437.
  9. Anand, C.K., Apul, D.S., 2014. Composting toilets as a sustainable alternative to urban sanitation – A review. Waste Management 34, 329–343.
  10. Cordova, A., Knuth, B.A., 2005. Barriers and strategies for dry sanitation in large-scale and urban settings. Urban Water Journal 2, 245–262.
  11. Riggle, D., Gray, K., 1999. Using plants to purify wastewater. BioCycle 40(1): 40-42.
  12. Rivett, M.O., Halcrow, A.W., Schmalfuss, J., Stark, J.A., Truslove, J.P., Kumwenda, S., Harawa, K.A., Nhlema, M., Songola, C., Wanangwa, G.J., Miller, A.V.M., Kalin, R.M., 2018. Local scale water-food nexus: Use of borehole-garden permaculture to realise the full potential of rural water supplies in Malawi. Journal of Environmental Management 209, 354–370.