Improving WATSAN Services in the MENA Region through the Arab Countries Water Utilities Association (IWSMR)
Despite massive infrastructure investments, nearly millions of citizens in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region lack adequate access to potable water. Wastewater management in some areas is markedly worse. Once water-balanced MENA countries are now running water deficits. Regional governments and local utilities agree that the benefits of multimillion-dollar infrastructure investments will be short-lived without proper operations and maintenance (O&M) management by a capable and qualified workforce.
Arab Countries Water Utility Association (ACWUA). Supported by USAID, ACWUA has assumed regional leadership as a training provider and as a promoter of a harmonized and standardized accreditation approach. With 18 member countries and more than 100 member utilities in the MENA region, ACWUA is uniquely positioned to promote the scale-up of operator certification and training.
To achieve these results, IWSMR worked with ACWUA to build its capacity and establish a Regional Operator Certification and Training Program (ROCTP). Through pilot ROCTP courses, ACWUA introduced this innovative program which requires operators to study a standardized curriculum and demonstrate job knowledge and skills by passing professional tests leading to legally-recognized certification. ROCTP includes operator certifications in water treatment and distribution, wastewater treatment and collection, and utility management. IWSMR also assisted ACWUA in planning and piloting utility twinning exchanges focused on specific deficient utility O&M functions.
In addition, IWSMR implemented a capacity building program for ACWUA to facilitate the smooth implementation and sustainability of ROCTP and the twinning activities. The program included strategic business planning and information system assistance to the ACWUA Directorate in order to enhance organization capacity commensurate with standards necessary to receive independent USAID grants. The program included certified courses in train-the-trainers (TOT); and, curricula and test development emphasizing on-job application of practical skills.
- Improved management and information systems within ACWUA
- Improved reliability of ACWUA’s year-to-year revenue streams
- Enhanced training materials and certification framework
- Increased exchange between regional water and wastewater utilities
- ACWUA Strategic Business Plan: A working group of ACWUA board members was established to participate with IWSMR in developing the ACWUA Strategic Business Plan for 2015-19 with emphasis on regional operator certification and training. The final ACWUA Strategic Business Plan was officially approved by the board in January, 2015.
- Responsibility determination: IWSMR assisted ACWUA in making improvements to their management and financial systems. An ACWUA Financial Manual was completed in February, 2015 and a Project Management Manual in July, 2015. USAID approved responsibility determination for ACWUA in September 2015 and initiated a direct grant of approximately $300,000.
- Interim Certification Platform and ROCTP Pilots: ACWUA has agreed to adopt and abide by the current Jordanian certification process as implemented by the Center for Accreditation and Quality Assurance (CAQA). MOUs signed between ACWUA and Egyptian authorities: Housing and Building National Research Center (HBRC) and the Egyptian Water Regulatory Authority (EWRA) to continue to harmonize the Egypt and Jordan certification programs.