Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST)

We are tackling the global drinking water crisis in the only way that is truly sustainable: by building the knowledge and skills of local populations to meet their own needs. Through this model, we have helped 11.4 million people access better water or sanitation in 78 countries.

Zambian Mary Banda is a certified biosand filter technician and has helped thousands of people access safe drinking water.Our Story Why We Exist

CAWST is addressing a major humanitarian need: the fact that half the world's population lacks access to safe water or sanitation. 

The standard response to this crisis typically focuses on infrastructure, such as hand-pumps, wells and toilets, rather than on equipping local populations with the knowledge and skills they need to sustainably solve their water and sanitation needs.

That is where CAWST steps in. We provide professional education and training services to organizations worldwide to ensure their water, sanitation and hygiene programs are effective, replicable and sustainable. 

What does that look like on the ground? It looks like a woman in Zambia named Mary Banda.

Mary illustrates the incredible impact one person can have when they gain the knowledge and skills to provide clean drinking water and somewhere safe to go to the bathroom for their families. With that knowledge, they can then help other families in their community experience the same formative change. 

Mary first encountered CAWST in 2006. She had lost her husband and was the single mother of six children living in a poor area on the outskirts of a town called Ndola. When she learned that her children's health problems were linked to unsafe drinking water, Mary set-out on a mission to improve the health of her family, and her community.

Mary attended a workshop provided by CAWST's partner in Zambia, Seeds of Hope International Partnerships (SHIP), where she gained the knowledge and skills she needed to understand why the water in her community was unsafe, how it was affecting her family's health and how to ensure her family could sustainably access safe drinking water and sanitation.

The impact was immediate. Having seen her family's health improve, Mary set out on a quest to expand access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation in her community. Nearly a decade later, Mary has helped build over 5,700 biosand filters and has made over 300 household visits as a community health promoter. She has been certified by CAWST as a biosand filter technician -- the first woman in Africa to achieve that designation. 

The impact Mary achieved once she was equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to enact change in her community is but one example, among thousands, of how CAWST's focus on knowledge and skills results in meaningful, sustainable change.


Access to clean water is a human right, and yet still half the world lacks access to safe drinking water or sanitation. CAWST was born in Calgary to address this crisis in the most sustainable manner: by teaching local populations how to address their safe drinking water and basic sanitation needs and then supporting them in their actions.

CAWST is proud of its Calgary roots, having been founded by Calgarians, while one of the key solutions we teach people how to build and maintain, the biosand filter, was invented at the University of Calgary.

CAWST educates local organizations, government agencies and community-level individuals how to sustainably expand access to safe drinking water and sanitation.  This model of education and consulting support allows us to magnify our reach by ensuring the clients we train are implementing appropriate, effective and sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) project.  CAWST has a target of reaching 20 million people with safe drinking water or sanitation by 2020. 

This photo was taken at a sanitation workshop delivered by CAWST in Cambodia.Our Impact What We Do

CAWST is not only helping millions of people worldwide to gain access to the safe water and sanitation they need to live healthy, productive lives; we are developing the local leaders of tomorrow in the 68 countries where we work worldwide. 

We believe deeply in the capability of local populations to identify, implement and sustain their own solutions. When we provide people with crucial knowledge and skills, we unlock their potential to drive change in their communities.Most importantly, we stick around, so that people know we are available to support them in their action. When they face a hurdle in their efforts to improve the water and sanitation conditions in their community, they know we are available to help them find a solution. This way, challenges are overcome rather than derailing a project.

We do this by: 

  • Training -- We offer a comprehensive suite of training workshops, which we deliver directly and which we train local organizations on so that they can deliver this training locally, independent of CAWST.
  • Education Materials -- We provide the world's largest online collection of free water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) educational resources so that individuals and organizations worldwide can access the knowledge they need, when they need it.
  • Technical Support -- Our field staff provide consulting support to practitioners using a mentorship and coaching approach. This ongoing technical support is delivered through site visits, email, Skype, online training and phone, covering project start-up, scale-up and troubleshooting.
  • Action Research --  We mentor clients in action research, project evaluation, measuring and reporting organizational outcomes and impacts, data management and data analysis. We distill research into practical knowledge so that it is applicable and relevant to practitioners worldwide.


  • 11.4 million people are using better water or sanitation technologies as a result of projects implemented by our 970 clients in 78 countries. 
  • 5.0 million people have been trained using CAWST's training and education materials.
  • $2.17: The amount CAWST has spent per person affected by CAWST's clients. 

CAWST’s vision is a world where people have the opportunity to succeed because their basic water and sanitation needs have been met. CAWST’s mission is to provide technical training and consulting in water and sanitation for the poor. 

CAWST provides practical training tools to empower local populations to improve WASH conditions.Our Programs How We Do It

Internationally, CAWST works directly with client organizations in 78 countries. Much of our work is focused on eight countries: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Honduras, Lao PDR, Nepal and Zambia.

In each of those eight countries we have partnered with in-country organizations to create locally-staffed centres (called Water Expertise and Training (WET) Centres) that provide locally-adapted water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) training and education services. 

The WET Centres are core to our strategy of addressing the global water and sanitation crisis by building local knowledge and skills. Over time, the WET Centres become increasingly independent, allowing CAWST to expand its focus to other countries knowing that the WET Centres are doing locally what CAWST does globally.

These WET Centres are key to sustainable development, as they are run by local staff who ensure that water and sanitation solutions are locally-appropriate and sustained. 

"This innovative process of mentoring and coaching by CAWST allows the WET Centre to deliver more than 80 per cent of its own training and consulting support services, which allows us to make a deep and sustainable impact on WASH issues" - Evans Chiyenge, manager of the Zambia WET Centre.

"CAWST has given us something that no one can take away from us - the knowledge, and the empowerment to do something with that knowledge. We are all working together towards the same objective of improving access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation." - Maria Inestroza, Honduras WET Centre.

CAWST also operates a Virtual WET Centre designed to make WASH resources and training available to anyone with an internet connection. For example, CAWST's WASH Resources website features the world's largest online collection of WASH education and training resources and has over 6,500 registered users from 164 countries.

Domestically, CAWST educates Canadian youth on local and global water issues through its Youth Wavemakers program.  Wavemakers is a unique program that empowers youth to take action on water issues meaningful to them. The program provides educators with tools to inform and engage youth on local and global water issues, and helps to catalyze independent action through experiential learning components. There is an annual Youth Summit, which provides a platform for youth to launch Action Projects. Wavemakers provides youth with seed grants to support their projects, and mentorship is provided to aid the project in coming to fruition. These youth then get the chance to showcase their projects at CAWST’s annual World Water Day event, which is Calgary’s largest celebration of World Water Day. Since 2008 the Wavemakers program has reached 28,000 educators and youth, who in turn have reached over 100,000 people through increasing awareness and taking action on water issues.

CAWST engages North American audiences in global WASH issues.Our Requests What You Can Do

By supporting CAWST's overseas service delivery, donors are achieving a "ripple effect" impact through CAWST's training of thousands of organizations worldwide.

When you support CAWST, you are helping to give a family the knowledge and skills they need to treat their own drinking water, build an appropriate latrine and practice healthy hygiene in the home. When a family is healthy, the parents can work, children can go to school and income can be used to support the family instead of being spent on hospital visits and medication.

The long-term effect of empowering families is incredible. Not only is that one family healthy, but they are equipped to pass those knowledge and skills on to other families in their community.

By supporting CAWST's Virtual WET Centre, you can be on the leading edge of the innovative use of technology as a tool to help expand global access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Learn more about the resources CAWST offers at www.cawst.org/resources.

By supporting CAWST's Youth Wavemakers program, you can support the development of the leaders of tomorrow, both in Alberta and across Canada. Over 1,000 youth have participated in action projects through the Wavemakers program since its inception in 2005, and those youth in turn have reached over 100,000 youth. Learn more about the Youth Wavemakers program at www.cawst.org/wavemakers.

You can also get involved by volunteering with CAWST! 

We are always looking for self-motivated individuals with passion and enthusiasm for international development. In return we commit to providing a fun, engaging, diverse, challenging and a supportive volunteer environment.

There is typically a diverse array of opportunities to take advantage of including technical support, translations, IT, research, administration, youth presentations and community booths. If there is something you think you can do for us and don't see it posted, please get in touch! We love to hear from people with a variety of skills and experiences.

Learn more about how you can get involved by volunteering with CAWST: www.cawst.org/en/get-involved/volunteer