Water Currents: Water Utilities

Under the Local Sustainability and Innovation Component of IUWASH PLUS, technicians install open source hardware to measure water pressure in the water utility of Bekasi City, Indonesia. Photo credit: USAID/IUWASH PLUS.

Today, more than half the world’s population is living in cities; by 2050, two-thirds of the world’s projected population will be urban. The U.S. Government Global Water Strategy states that this rapid pace of urbanization requires increased attention to urban services and water utilities.

Even as utilities strive to serve growing populations, water availability in cities is projected to shrink by as much as two-thirds by 2050. The ability of utilities to provide a safely managed water service—and to reach the unserved—will be underpinned by their investment in efficiency improvement, policy and institutional capacity development, access to financing, and ability to respond to climate change—even more than infrastructure investments.

Studies and reports in this issue address the management and operational issues of water utilities as well as their operating environment. A special thanks to the staff of DAI, the World Bank, and Asian Development Bank for suggesting water utilities as a topic for this issue and contributing content.


Sector Reform and Transformation
Water Utility Turnaround Framework: A Guide for Improving PerformanceThe World Bank, November 2018. Using a comprehensive turnaround framework is the best approach to improve water utilities' performance, efficiency, and ability to access finance, including commercial finance. Evidence shows that utilities with access to commercial finance are more likely to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  

Joining Forces to Transform Water and Sanitation UtilitiesThe World Bank, November 2017. The World Bank produced this feature to help promote the “Water Utilities Aggregation Toolkit,” which discusses how water and sanitation utilities can work together to successfully deliver specific policy outcomes. The story includes links to the main report and an online version of the toolkit.

Non-Revenue Water 
The Use of Performance-Based Contracts for Non-Revenue Water ReductionTheWorld Bank, August 2018. Performance-based contracts (PBCs) for non-revenue water (NRW) reduction are designed for outsourcing technical, commercial, and construction activities related to NRW reduction, while providing the contractor with incentives to achieve the desired results. This operational manual describes the process for planning and implementing an NRW-PBC.
Performance-Based Contracts for Non-Revenue Water Management – This webpage from the International Water Association (IWA) provides information on how NRW affects water utilities and provides case studies and other information that deal with NRW issues.

Building Capacity
Boosting the Effectiveness of Water Operators’ PartnershipsGlobal Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA), September 2018. This fact sheet documents the partnership between the Vietnamese water utility Da Nang Water Supply Company and the Dutch company, VEI, between 2007 and 2010.
Forging Partnerships Among Water and Wastewater Operators. Asian Development Bank (ADB), August 2017. The selected case briefs in this report provide insight on the various partnerships created through the ADB’s Water Operators Partnerships (WOP) Program to improve local water utility operations and service delivery provision.
WOP Facilitation Tool: Training of MentorsGWOPA, September 2017. This series of modules facilitates learning via participant interaction and storytelling, aiming to help WOP participants understand mentoring and the roles of each participant, and link their mentoring to a change process and the WOP cycle.
Placing Women at the Center of Water Supply Management in KenyaGlobal Waters Stories, September 2018. A USAID assessment of 13 water utilities in Kenya found that none met the minimum requirement of 30 percent female representation . USAID worked with each utility to develop gender equity action plans that include training on gender equality awareness and recruitment of female leaders and employees.

Water Quality
Dry Pipes: Associations Between Utility Performance and Intermittent Piped Water Supply in Low and Middle Income CountriesWater, August 2018. Leveraging data from the International Benchmarking Network for Water and Sanitation Utilities, researchers found 42 variables that can factor into intermittent water supply. They provide recommendations and data needs for improved global indicators of utility performance related to intermittent supply.
Measuring the Impacts of Water Safety Plans in the Asia-Pacific RegionInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, June 2018. This study investigates the effectiveness of water safety plans (WSPs) in 99 water supply systems across 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. WSPs are associated with infrastructure improvements at the vast majority of participating sites, as well as increased financial support at 37 sites.
Strengthening Operations & Maintenance Through Water Safety Planning: A Collection of Case StudiesWHO, September 2018. These case studies contribute to a growing body of information on the outcomes of water safety planning and may be useful in building support for WSPs among water sector senior managers, operational staff, and other stakeholders.
Detailed Review of a Recent Publication: Intermittent Water Supply Jeopardizes Water Quality and Costs Users and Utilities MoneyUNC Water Institute, December 2017. This issue of the WaSH Policy Research Digest includes a literature review, which concludes that measuring and categorizing intermittency is a challenge that still needs to be addressed.

Water Security 
Beyond Scarcity: Water Security in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)The World Bank, November 2017. MENA’s current water challenges go far beyond age-old constraints of water scarcity. This report explores how countries in the region can anticipate and act to strengthen water security, rather than waiting to react to the inevitable disruptions of water crises.
Asian Water Development Outlook 2016: Strengthening Water Security in Asia and the PacificADB, 2016. This report provides a snapshot of water security status in the Asia-Pacific region.
Water Scarce Cities: Thriving in a Finite WorldThe World Bank, 2018. Using information from the Water Scarce Cities Initiative, this report compiles innovative approaches to inspire a new kind of urban water security. The report is an evidence-based advocacy piece to guide water security approaches and shares the experiences of 19 water-scarce cities and territories from five continents.

Institutional/Policy Aspects
Aligning Institutions and Incentives for Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation ServicesThe World Bank, May 2018. The objective of this study is to analyze how integrated policy, institutional, and regulatory interventions can help align incentives for more sustainable water supply and sanitation service delivery.
Performance of Water Utilities in AfricaThe World Bank, March 2017. A World Bank assessment identified and analyzed the main features of water utility performance in Africa, with the objective of informing bank and government policies and projects on the drivers of utility performance.
Strengthening Governance of Local Water and Sanitation Utilities for Improved Service DeliveryThe World Bank, June 2017. This report provides an overview of World Bank capacity-building activities in Egypt to improve rural sanitation services. It draws lessons learned that can be replicated by other similar programs in the region and beyond.
The Challenge of Effective Policy Implementation in Nigerian Urban Water UtilitiesWater Science and Technology: Water Supply, November 2017. Effective policy implementation remains a challenge for urban water utilities in Nigeria. Researchers found that policies and legislation developed were of commendable standards, but the implementation process was predominantly hindered by five factors. The authors discuss the management of these factors to achieve the intended results from water legislation and policies.

Measuring Performance 
International Benchmarking Network for Water and Sanitation Utilities (IBNET) – IBNET provides statistics on water and sanitation utilities performance and supports and promotes good benchmarking practice among water and sanitation services.
AquaRating: Transforming the Management of Water and Sanitation Utilities – AquaRating focuses the challenges water and sanitation utilities face in a comprehensive way, evaluating their performance through indicators and management practices, establishing an international standard, and relying on information verified by independent auditors accredited by AquaRating.

Indonesia Environmental Service Program (ESP) EvaluationWater CKM Project, August 2017. Seven years after ESP ended, an evaluation team examined the sustainability of the program’s capacity building efforts with Indonesian municipal water utilities and financial mechanisms to improve utility management and expand water access in urban areas. In addition to the report, the team produced an evaluation brief and webinar that presents the key report findings.
Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Water Sector Evaluation: Performance Evaluation ReportUSAID, March 2018. USAID’s Middle East Bureau funded this evaluation of water sector activities in the MENA region to provide lessons learned and recommendations for future programming in anticipation of limited funding scenarios.

Case Studies
Cross-Subsidies for Improved Sanitation in Low Income Settlements: Assessing the Willingness to Pay of Water Utility Customers in Kenyan CitiesWorld Development, March 2019. Findings from this study suggest that in a sector that struggles to provide universal access to sanitation services, cross-subsidies may offer a means to support financing of safe sanitation for low-income households.
The Dhaka Water Services TurnaroundADB, December 2017. This publication looks at water utility key success factors such as the zonal approach to rehabilitating and managing urban water services, trenchless technology for expeditiously laying pipes, and how to connect the urban poor—and keep them connected—through community-managed approaches.
How One Water Utility in Sierra Leone Has Set an Example for Water Companies in AfricaIWA, May 2017. The Guma Valley Water Company of Sierra Leone has become the first water company in Africa to get an AquaRating certificate, setting an example for other water companies in Africa. It is the second in the world after the water supply company of Quito in Ecuador.

A Journey of Institutional Change: Extending Water Services to Nairobi’s Informal SettlementsWater & Sanitation for the Urban Poor, October 2018. This topic brief sets out the process of institutional change undergone by Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company to extend services to the informal settlements of Nairobi.


Water Currents
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Water CKM Project