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water utilities

Stronger together? Reflections on an 11-year journey through water reform

David Michaud's picture
The year is 2006, the scene is Honduras. As an enthusiastic new team member of a World Bank water sector reform project, I am trying to participate in the high-level discussions around decentralization and local government empowerment in the provision of water and sanitation services in my (then) broken Spanish. Coming from Switzerland, a small country with thousands of local service providers, I am convinced a bottom-up approach to service delivery is THE solution. Hasn’t the hugely influential 2004 World Development Report argued for exactly that – shortening the accountability route between customers and service providers? We are the champions of local, elected mayors, who want nothing more than to prove they could deliver better than the central government’s utility.

It’s now 2010 and I’m still in Honduras, now amid the reform implementation when reality kicks in. Three new municipal utilities have been established, with catchy logos and new staff and management. Operating costs, salaries in particular, have been slashed, and there’s a sense of opportunity – but also challenges. Those elected mayors are thinking about the next election and not very keen on adjusting tariffs to where they need to be. Installing water meters, a cornerstone of the modernization strategy, is facing a huge backlash from those very customers who are making direct use of the shorter accountability route to make their concerns heard. And services aren’t really getting better as fast as we would want…

Forward to 2014 – I’m now in Croatia. I’m sitting in a non-descript conference hall in Zagreb, Croatia, trying to inform a diverse set of local and central government stakeholders about the pros and cons of merging municipal water utilities into regional operators, as everyone else seems to be doing in the region. In fact, since my transition to Europe & Central Asia the year before, I observe what appears to be a serious case of reformitis: consultants and policy advisors are dutifully preaching the regionalization of just recently decentralized service providers to help implement the European Union’s stringent and costly environmental regulations.

A Brazilian water company goes back to nature to solve the problem of fluctuating water demand

Daniel Shemie's picture
© Andre Targa Cavassani/TNC

Co-authors:
Timm Kroeger 
Senior Environmental Economist,

The Nature Conservancy
Claudio Klemz 

Water Policy Specialist,
The Nature Conservancy

Balneário Camboriú is both a famous Brazilian beach destination and a water supply management puzzle. The resident population of the city is just 170,000, but swells to over 800,000 during the tourist season. Like many water utilities facing growing demand and the effects of climate change, the local water company, EMASA, must invest carefully to secure water for its fluctuating customer base.
 
Unlike many water utilities, however, EMASA is investing in the natural system where its water comes from.

Water utilities in Africa: How will they cope with a rapidly growing, thirsty population?

Caroline van den Berg's picture
Africa’s population is growing fast. Very fast. Sub-Saharan Africa is currently home to more than 1.2 billion people, and it is estimated that another 1 billion will be added by 2050. Economic and political instability, climate change and overall decline of employment in agriculture has accelerated urban migration. In 2016, almost 40 percent of the population in this region was living in cities compared to 31 percent in 2000.

How can water utilities provide reliable water to poor people in African cities?

Chris Heymans's picture
Urban Africa: Rapidly growing and densifying.
Photo Credit: Kathy Eales / World Bank

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 targets “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all”. However, in Africa’s fast-growing cities, just accessing water is a daily struggle for many poor families. While Africa’s urban population is expected to triple by 2050, the proportion of people with improved water supply has barely grown since 1990, and the share of those with water piped to their premises has declined from 43 percent in 1990 to 33 percent in 2015. Poor families bear the brunt of these inadequacies through poor health, the long time required to collect water, and higher costs when purchasing from on-sellers’.

However, some cities stand out as exceptions. What can we learn from cities and utilities that successfully provide reliable and safe water to almost all of their inhabitants? A study I led recently, Providing Water to Poor People in African Cities Effectively: Lessons from Utility Reforms, analyzed how the water utilities in Kampala, Nyeri, Dakar, Ouagadougou and Durban achieved stand-out performance, and how this made a difference for the poor people in these cities.

IBNET: Water and sanitation utility costs, charges and performance data at your fingertips

Alexander Danilenko's picture
Turning on the faucet: the water supply system in
Bella Vista, Las Lomas, province of Cocle, Panama.
Photo credit: Gerardo Pesantez / World Bank

Ask your child: “Where does our water come from?” And many of them might roll their eyes at being asked such a silly question, and tell you: “Water comes from the tap.”

But how? What is the name of the company that provides the service to you? How much does your water service cost? Is it expensive? Where does your wastewater go? Is it treated prior to discharge? How many people get water from the utility in your town? 

You can find answers to these and many other questions on our global website www.ib-net.org. Go to its performance database or its separate tariff database and get your answers! You can be one of nearly 8,000 people that visit the site each month to access a set of standard reports for a range of comparisons, benchmarking and assessments for more than 5,000 water utilities from 150 countries.

3 ways countries can improve water supplies in small towns

Fadel Ndaw's picture

Also available in: Français

A public faucet that serves 1,000 families in
el Alto, Bolivia.
Photo credit: Stephan Bachenheimer / World Bank

Small towns* typically have not been well served by national or regional water utilities. Decentralization has become increasingly widely adopted, but even if local governments at the small town level have the power to operate a water utility, they often lack the capital and skills to do so. In response, some local governments and public institutions concentrate improvements on upgrading public utilities’ operations or strengthening community based management. In other cases, they choose to bring in the private sector knowledge of how to get clean water and sanitation services to more people more efficiently, affordably or sustainably. There is no one solution to addressing often very complex water and sanitation challenges.

There are many ways in which the public sector can leverage its own resources through partnering with the private sector. For the domestic private sector to fully realize its potential at scale in the small town sub-sector, we found they need capable and enabled public institutions to structure the market and regulate private operators.

Lessons learned from case study countries (Colombia, Bangladesh, Philippines, Uganda, Cambodia, Niger and Senegal) in a new global study published by the Water Global Practice’s Water and Sanitation Program suggest the following three key ways to support public institutions in order to build a conducive business climate for market players in small towns Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) service delivery:

Ensuring robust water management strategies in Lima-Callão, Peru

Laura Bonzanigo's picture
Canto Grande, Lima, Peru. 
Photo Credit: Andrew Howson / Creative Commons

How can water resource agencies make smart investments to ensure long-term water reliability when the future is fraught with deep climate and economic uncertainty? Water resource agencies around the world are grappling with this question at a time of unprecedented water stress, growing demands, uncertain climate change, and limited budgets. We helped SEDAPAL, the water utility serving Lima, Peru, answer this question by drawing on state of the art methods for decision making under deep uncertainty.

Lima is home to approximately 9.8 million people. It is the fifth largest metropolitan area in Latin America. With average precipitation of just 6 mm per year, Lima is also the second largest desert city in the world. A rapidly growing population with approximately one million underserved urban poor, current water shortages, competition for water between sectors, wide rainfall variation due to El Niño effects, and long-term climate change impacts may leave the region under perpetual water stress.

Recognizing the urgency of Lima’s water situation, SEDAPAL has developed an aggressive multi-billion dollar Master Plan to implement 14 large and diverse infrastructural investments projects between now and 2040 at a total cost of US$2.7 billion. Together, the investments are designed to meet the 30 percent increase in water demand that SEDAPAL projects for the coming decades.

6 étapes clés pour renforcer la voix des consommateurs dans secteur de l'eau et de l'assainissement à travers des plateformes TIC

Fadel Ndaw's picture
Also available in: English
Akvo FLOW

Le Programme Eau et Assainissement (WSP) de la Banque mondiale (a) vient de terminer une importante étude sur la façon de valoriser le potentiel des technologies de  l'information et de la communication (TIC) pour 'améliorer les services d'eau et d'assainissement en Afrique. Il est admis que la promotion de la participation du public et la création d'un système de transparence et de reddition des comptes sont des préalables pour permettre aux pauvres d’avoir accès à des services améliorés d'eau et d'assainissement [1]. Les expériences et les leçons tirées de différentes applications TIC à partir des résultats de l'étude suggèrent que les 6 étapes clés suivantes sont  façon de soutenir la conception et la mise en œuvre des outils TIC pour renforcer la voix des consommateurs dans le secteur de l'eau et de l'assainissement qui suit:

 

6 ways to strengthen consumer voice in water and sanitation sector through ICT platforms

Fadel Ndaw's picture
Also available in: Français
Source: Akvo FLOW

A new study was recently carried out by the Water Global Practice’s Water and Sanitation Program on how to unlock the potential of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to improve Water and Sanitation Services in Africa. The study suggests that promoting public participation and creating a system of transparency and accountability is critical to improve water and sanitation services to the poor [1] – as identified in earlier studies on the characteristics of well-performing public water utilities. The experiences and lessons learned from the study indicate the following six key ways on how to support the design and implementation of ICT tools to strengthen consumer voice and citizen engagement in the water and sanitation sector.

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