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water supply

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.

Can you crowdsource water quality data?

Pratibha Mistry's picture
Photo: Adapted from Archana Jarajapu
on Flickr under
Creative Commons 2.0.
The recently released Contextual Framework for Crowdsourcing Water Quality Data lays out a strategy for citizen engagement in decentralized water quality monitoring, enabled by the “mobile revolution.”

According to the WHO, 1.8 billion people lack access to safe drinking water worldwide. Poor source water quality, non-existent or insufficient treatment, and defects in water distribution systems and storage mean these consumers use water that often doesn’t meet the WHO’s Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality.

The crowdsourcing framework develops a strategy to engage citizens in measuring and learning about the quality of their own drinking water. Through their participation, citizens provide utilities and water supply agencies with cost-effective water quality data in near-real time. Following a typical crowdsourcing model: consumers use their mobile phones to report water quality information to a central service. That service receives the information, then repackages and shares it via mobile phone messages, websites, dashboards, and social media. Individual citizens can thus be educated about their water quality, and water management agencies and other stakeholders can use the data to improve water management; it’s a win-win.

New directions in the economics of agricultural water conservation

Susanne M. Scheierling's picture

A challenging area in agricultural water management is the assessment of policy and investment options in irrigated agriculture for conserving water and adapting to increasing water scarcity, in particular when the linkages to groundwater resources and their management are to be considered and incorporated. 

However, this is an increasingly important area of research for a number of reasons.  First, irrigated agriculture accounts for about 70% of global freshwater withdrawals, and is a major contributing factor to the water scarcity situation in many countries.  Second, with almost a quarter of freshwater withdrawals for irrigated agriculture being made up of groundwater supplies—corresponding to 70% of total groundwater withdrawals—, agricultural water use is also a major contributing factor to aquifer overexploitation.  And, third, surface water and groundwater are closely linked in most parts of the world, with groundwater discharge contributing to the base flow of streams and surface water contributing to groundwater recharge, and these interactions are intensified by human action, in particular water withdrawals for irrigated agriculture.  Even in cases where irrigated agriculture depends mostly on surface water, groundwater impacts therefore need to be accounted for when assessing water conservation efforts (and vice versa).

Delivering water and sanitation services in Niger: challenges and results

Taibou Adamou Maiga's picture

Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries (44.5% of poverty incidence in 2014). The country faces a number of challenges in meeting the national (PROSEHA, the National Program for sustainable development) and global targets to increase access to sanitation and potable water, particularly in rural areas where the access to water is 44.2% and 7% for sanitation (2015 Ministry of Water and Sanitation data).

Overcoming these challenges while satisfying increasing demands for better or expanded service, the government began investigating options that bring in the know-how of the private sector. This has led to a growing domestic private sector provision of services in Niger.

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.

War and Peace and Water

Laura Tuck's picture

This post by Laura Tuck originally appeared on Project Syndicate’s website on May 4, 2016.



Today, actual wars between countries over water resources are uncommon, owing to improved dialogue and cross-border cooperation. But, within countries, competition for scarce water is becoming a more common source of instability and conflict, especially as climate change increases the severity and frequency of extreme weather events. As we detail in our new report “High and Dry: Climate Change, Water and the Economy,” limited and erratic water availability reduces economic growth, induces migration, and ignites civil conflict, which fuels further potentially destabilizing migration.

New approaches in water resource economics

Susanne M. Scheierling's picture
In many parts of the world, changing demand and supply patterns are contributing to an increasing physical scarcity and competition for water resources. Historically, new demands have been met by developing additional supplies—with the incremental cost of water remaining relatively constant over time due to the ready availability of water development project sites to meet growing demands. As the water economy moves from an expansionary to a mature phase, incremental costs are sharply rising, and interdependencies among users and uses are greatly increasing. With this move, the issues to be addressed by water economists tend to become more pressing, broader and more complex. While in the expansionary phase structural or engineering approaches to water management tend to be the main focus, in a maturing water economy nonstructural or institutional options for solving water problems receive increasing attention. In particular, resource allocation and valuation issues move to the forefront of economic inquiry.

World Water Day: Transforming lives through better water and jobs

Jennifer J. Sara's picture

The largest sphere represents
all of Earth's water. The next
smallest sphere represents the world's
liquid fresh water. The smallest
one represents fresh surface water
in all the lakes and rivers on the planet.
Source: US Geological Survey

Water covers 70% of Earth’s surface, but if you live in Sana’a, Sao Paolo, California, or the many other areas where drought or chronic water scarcity has affected daily life, you know that abundance can be relative.

This image from the US Geological Survey shows that only a tiny fraction of Earth’s water is the accessible freshwater we need to live, grow food, sustain the environment, and power our cities and jobs.

Growing cities and populations and a changing climate are placing unprecedented pressures on water. According to the World Economic Forum, water crises are among the top risks to global economic growth. For at least 650 million people, even the water they are able to find is unsafe.

But this also offers an opportunity to provide safer water and better manage our water resources for a more resilient future.

This year, #worldwaterday focuses on the connection between water and jobs, and these connections primarily fall under two categories: productivity and sustainability.

Where water and climate change meet

Water Communications's picture

This week, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, or COP21, will gather countries that want to take action for the climate. A central topic of these discussions will focus on the intersection of water and climate change.

Combating climate change is everyone’s business. Reducing emissions and investing in renewable energy, improving city planning and building design standards, developing more efficient transportation, and reducing deforestation (among others) all play key roles in mitigating the effects of climate change. At the same time, countries, and industries, will also need to adapt to changes in the climate as they unfold. Since climate change will significantly increase the variability of rainfall, different parts of the world will become more vulnerable to floods or droughts. 

“Water scarcity and variability pose significant risks to all economic activities, including food and energy production, manufacturing and infrastructure development,“ said Laura Tuck, World Bank Group Vice President for Sustainable Development during a recent press conference at COP21. “Poor water management can exacerbate the effects of climate change on economic growth, but if water is managed well it can go a long way to neutralizing the negative impacts.”

5 avantages potentiels de l'intégration des TIC dans vos projets d'eau et d'assainissement

Fadel Ndaw's picture
Also available in: English

Le Programme Eau et Assainissement (WSP) de la Banque mondiale 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. Selon un rapport du GSMA, en 2014, 52% de tous les déploiements d’outils de transfert d'argent via le téléphone mobile à l’échelle mondiale se trouvaient en Afrique subsaharienne et 82% des Africains avaient accès à une couverture GSM. En comparaison, seulement 63% avaient accès à l'eau potable et 32% à l'électricité. Cette adoption rapide de technologies-mobile en Afrique offre une occasion unique pour la région de faire face au manque criard de données et d'informations sur les infrastructures d'eau et d'assainissement existants et leur gestion actuelle - une barrière pour l'extension des services aux pauvres.

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