Staying dynamic: Celebrating Aqua for All’s 20th Anniversary - Aqua for All

Staying dynamic: Celebrating Aqua for All’s 20th Anniversary

Published: 19th December 2022

2022 marked our 20th anniversary. To close our jubilee year, we want to shed some light on how Aqua for All developed over the last two decades.


Our pilot stages

Aqua for All started as a private initiative in 2002 and was launched primarily to promote access to water and sanitation globally.

Our first Managing Director, Sjef Ernes, recalls it was an auspicious moment for this water sector-based initiative to blossom, due to the support of the Dutch government which aimed at obtaining a leading role in water and sanitation globally.

In 2005, the Dutch government announced that it had set the goal of serving 50 million people over a five-year period. Their intention derived from raising its ambitions to meet the UN Millennium Development Goal 7 – Ensuring environmental sustainability including access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

“The government’s willingness to cooperate in a sector that continuously faced doubts from investors because water is considered a public good, was beneficial for the expansion of Aqua for All,” Sjef Ernes said.


Our focus on the private sector

At the beginning, Aqua for All provided in-person support by sending staff abroad for weeks. They set up programmes, provided training, contributed to solving local problems, and supported building capacity. At this time, we received grants from the Dutch Government to fund water and sanitation-related projects abroad.

Our objective to combine both private and public efforts was achieved by selecting innovative programmes that were attractive to private sector players. This persuaded companies to grant Aqua for All grants to fund such projects.

“We were in a unique position because we stepped out from the traditional developmental aid model for water and sanitation. We helped to develop the capacity in the countries we operated in.” Sjef Ernes continued. “We took upon us the role of brokers, embedded leverage as a key instrument in our programmes and supported innovation and private sector involvement.” Aqua for All was looking for out-of-the box private sector-driven solutions for a sector traditionally funded and managed by the public sector.

In the past years, Aqua for All’s strategy to fund market-based solutions and enterprises was complemented by using grants as a de-risking instrument to catalyse public and private investments in water and sanitation. Achieving access to water and sanitation for all (SDG 6) by 2030 requires an additional investment of US$1.7 trillion, which is about three times the current investment levels.

Looking forward, we will continue supporting innovative, sustainable, and market-based service and financial solutions that accelerate access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Without transforming the sector, we will not speed up progress towards achieving SDG 6 at the end of the decade!