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Initiative: Optimal Sanitation
Optimal Sanitation

A new paradigm

Water sources
panoramic view of optimal sanitation system

Optimal Sanitation is an IDB initiative that promotes efficient sanitation solutions that are appropriate within the social and geographical contexts of the communities where they are proposed, increasing access and quality of sanitation services in Latin America and the Caribbean.  

In this sense, Optimal Sanitation defines actions that are aimed at changing the traditional forms of investing in sanitation – heavily focused in infrastructure – toward a focus on services for the people. With this objective, the Bank develops an action plan to address the sector’s challenges, and to promote efficient and adequate sanitation solutions. 

Optimal Sanitation is a call to action for national governments, to institutions in the sanitation sector, to bilateral and multilateral financing entities, unions, academia, philanthropic entities and the private sector, to change the existing paradigm: access to sanitation that only prioritizes building infrastructure, and which often relegates to lesser importance, the community’s expectations and needs, operation and maintenance costs, and/or, even the integral management of urban watersheds. 

Optimal Sanitation guides the Bank’s work with respect to generating knowledge, dialogue with countries, and the design and implementation of operations (in terms of both loans and technical cooperation) in the area of sanitation. A central part is the call to action to countries, financing agencies (multilateral, bilateral, private, and philanthropic), and to society in general (unions, academia, NGOs, and service users), to redouble efforts to resolve sanitation challenges in the region. 

Optimal Sanitation guides the Bank in a concrete way with respect to the lines of work and action in this sector, while giving flexibility to address the diversity of challenges and institutional, political, and economic contexts that face each one of the 26 borrowing member countries. 

In this sense, Optimal Sanitation seeks to establish alliances and join forces to achieve the sanitation goals established by SDG 6. That requires: 

Directing more resources to the sector and being more efficient in their use

Developing and applying coherent policies

Planning in a rational manner

Sharing the same vision for problem-solving with the decision-makers, sector stakeholders, and citizens.


Optimal Sanitation is structured on a platform in which all the solutions are designed to support sector stakeholders (government authorities, employees of service-providing companies, sector professionals, sector agencies, other financing entities, and service users). Those solutions seek to contribute to the resolution of the primary challenges of the sanitation sector with respect to policy and program design, investment focusing, definition of priorities, governmental and regulatory frameworks, tariff definition systems, and programs for the design and modeling of residual water treatment networks and systems, in the form of guides, case studies, comparative studies, diagnostics, models, and tools.

Our Partners

Optimal Sanitation has crucial support from the European Union and the Spanish International Development Cooperation Agency (Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo, or  AECID, in Spanish), through the LAIF-IDB Cooperation Program and the resources from the Latin America Investment Fund (LAIF) of the European Commission. Additional support comes from the multiple donors who are part of Aquafund, the fund created with IDB capital and to which a wide range of public and private sector stakeholders contribute. 

Action Plan

The diagnosis and action plan proposed by Optimal Sanitation is structured around four primary themes (axes), that comprise the holistic vision proposed by the Initiative: 

  1. the impact and justification of service access for the People; 
  2. the improvement of the Governmental framework (including the institutions, functional capacities of functionaries and employees in the sector, and financing resources); 
  3. the vision with respect to the Watershed and climate change resilience; 
  4. use of Technology and Innovation in the sanitation sector. 

Based on the different strategic lines (or work pillars) the IDB team proposes 
activities and specific products to be developed for specific geographic, economic and socio-cultural contexts. 

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