Water programmeiswidely acknowledged as thought leader that mobilsed the country through a water literacy campaign calling for decentralized solutions to harvesting rainwater, control water pollution, urban sewage management in catalyzing policy changes at both national and state levels. Several publications that laid the reform agenda for water management in the country include - Dying Wisdom (1997) documenting the rise, fall and potential of India’s traditional water harvesting systems from different ecological contexts; Making Water Everybody’s Business (2001) followed with connecting the theory and practice of rainwater harvesting (RWH) targeting planners and policy-makers with a toolkit on Catch Water Where it Falls and focused research report Yamuna – sewage canal highlighting the needfor re-engineering the water and sewage management to address river pollution. CSE was awarded the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize in 2005 for promoting awareness on sustainable water management and community engagement, and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation Water Award in 2008.
In 2009 Central Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India designated CSE – the national Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Water Management area for applied research on innovation in policy and practices including capacity building of municipal functionaries. This includes Policy paper(s) – (1) Septage Management in India (2) Roadmap for Rating System for Water Efficient Fixtures – a way to sustainable water management in India (3) Mainstreaming energy efficiency in urban water and wastewater management in the wake of climate change and development of toolkit for Designing and implementing Sustainable Urban Water Management with practitioner’s guides to cater capacity building requirements for mainstreaming reform as follows - (1) Water Sensitive Urban Design and Planning (WSUDP) (2) Septage Management (3) Green Infrastructure (4) Water efficiency and Conservation including a Urban Water Sustainability Framework – a template for assessing progress in town/cities.
During 2012, CSE published India’s first and most comprehensive study Excreta Matters outliningthe potentialfor sustainable water and sewage management for 71 Indian cities. This was followed with another publication aimed at promoting small scale and low-cost sewage treatment including local resuse - Reinvent, Recycle, Reuse: Toolkit on Decentralised Wastewater Management.
Over past decade focus of programme has been on capacity building of policy makers, practitioners, regulators and all other non government sector – consultants, researchers, academics involved in water management. CSE has emerged as a capacity building hub with 5000+ alumni in urban water and sanitation who have benefitted from workshops, short training and knowledge conclaves organized by the programme. In 2018, the School of Water and Waste set up – a key constituent of CSE’s Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute (AAETI) at Nimli , Rajasthan is established as part of bigger agenda to build capacities among practitioners and offers short 1/ 2 week long residential trainings, seminar , workshops, webinar, knowledge conclave bringing together as well as online courses. A crucial component of School is referral laboratory on septage management to develop tools, protocols for faecal sludge testing and characterization) including, efficiency of various small scale wastewater systems.
To meet the growing demand from practitioners for knowledge support the programme has developed online web based tools – MOUNT (Menu on Un-Networked Technologiesfor sewage and septage management), SANi-KiT (a web based tool for preparing City Sanitation Plan) and SFD ( a web based tool for preparing Shit Flow Diagrams) and help desk to support alumni as well as other who are involved in advocacy, designing and implementing sustainable and affordable city-wide water and sanitation for all.
Time to time the team has been involved in implementing some high visibility and high impact model projectsthat can act as learning case for other who would like to take up similar initiatives. In this direction the programme has partnered with – Department of Urban Development, State Government of Uttar Pradesh (India) and National Mission Clean Ganga (NMCG) – Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India to provide knowledge support for mainstreaming citywide sanitation including effective faecal sludge and septage management in across river basin in the target town and cities. The programme is also providing technical support in two towns – Chunar and Bijnor to be developed as model for other urban centre across Ganga basin and beyond.
These efforts contribute towards meeting the twin goals of the programmecreating a water prudent society and adapting to climate change in global south. The present programme focus areas include – Water Sensitive Urban Design and Planning (includes rainwater harvesting) and Green Infrastructure
- Septage Management including Decentralised Wastewater Management and local reuse)
- Urban Wetland / Lake Management
- Water Efficiency and Conservation
- Energy Efficiency in Urban Water Management to build resilience in wake of climate change.
Currently the programmehas instituted global tie ups with leading water and sanitation sector players has also influenced global policy strategies focus on affordable solutions to augment water resources and achieving sustainable sanitation for all. Some focus countries of programme are Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal (South Asia) and South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, Tanzania (in Africa). In India the programme has pan India focus and instituted formal partnerships with State Governments of Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Delhi, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.