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Governance of public water supply and sanitation utilities


Public utilities for drinking water supply, sanitation and waste management are at the core of major challenges. On the one hand, they must provide access to good living and health conditions essential for all populations. On the other, their impact on water resources and the environment must remain as limited as possible.

Public drinking water supply, sanitation and waste management utilities must therefore be able to provide a high-quality and efficient service, while taking into account climate change that has a direct impact on resource availability and increased flood risk.

To achieve this, it is necessary that they adopt an optimal organization with an efficient internal structure with the appropriate skills. On the financial level, the objective is to finance the maintenance and renewal of facilities while setting up tariffs guaranteeing the accessibility of services to all, and that they are able to continuously improve their performances.

The challenge of governance of public drinking water supply, sanitation and waste management utilities therefore lies at the interface between these multiple issues.


Who are the stakeholders involved?

Governance and good management of public drinking water supply / sanitation / waste utilities requires the involvement of many different stakeholders at various levels of responsibility and on different geographical scales.

The national authorities and their decentralized services are concerned through their obligation to regulate the sector and to establish appropriate environmental and economic policies.

The public and private managers of these utilities and their employees are at the core of this issue: they must ensure a maximum level of service and maintain structures at an optimized cost, while adapting to regulatory and technological changes guaranteeing the conservation and good quality of natural resources.

Finally, contracting authorities, local authorities and users are also an essential link in the water, sanitation and waste sector, as they are the guarantors of the proper management of these utilities whether under direct management or delegated to a private organization.

But in addition to ensuring their respective prerogatives, these different categories of stakeholders must also coordinate their actions and maintain a regular dialogue in order to guarantee the technical, financial and economic sustainability of the services while ensuring the integration of their governance into policies and environmental issues.


What is IOWater doing?

In order to improve the governance of public water, sanitation and waste management utilities, IOWater has been able to develop a high-level expertise for many years and offers quality guidance on several key issues:

  • Defining an appropriate national institutional framework

IOWater assists national institutions in defining and implementing strategies to optimize management and access to water and sanitation services (support for decentralization, legislative framework, framework for Public Private Partnership (PPP), distribution of responsibilities, regulation).

  • Technical and organizational support for drinking water supply and sanitation utilities

Based on an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of drinking water supply and sanitation utilities, both on organizational, technical and financial aspects, an audit is carried out in direct relation with the contracting authority. It proposes areas for improvement and ways for better governance and improved performance of the services, adapted to the local context.

  • Training and capacity building

A high-quality exploitation of water and sanitation utilities optimizes the investment costs (increase of the lifespan of the installations) and the operation of the service. It also improves the quality of the service provided to the user. IOWater contributes to the definition of effective organizations of the service, to the preparation of training plans to acquire all the skills needed by the staff, and the training of the staff on all themes related to the management of a water utility. IOWater also organizes study visits to promote peer-to-peer experience sharing.

  • Financial management and pricing

The quality of a water supply and sanitation utility depends in part on the financial resources it is able to mobilize. Financial balance must be found to ensure sustainability while allowing users to obtain water in sufficient quantity and quality for their basic needs. IOWater is examining the best adjustment to find a balance between defining the correct scope of operation, the degree of technicality of the service provided, the definition of pricing levels and categories of users, and the methods of cost recovery.

  • Support for the establishment of a PPP

The success of a PPP is conditioned by the creation of a climate of trust between the public authority and the private operator. Therefore, IOWater supports Governments, cities and local authorities in the development of rigorous contractual frameworks that clearly define the roles and objectives of each party, accompanied by a system of performance monitoring and effective information flow.

  • Performance indicators

The implementation of performance indicators aims to develop an information system for the monitoring and evaluation of water services. The creation of such indicator bases, fed by the local authorities and / or the operators responsible for these services, allows in turn to improve their management methods and to introduce more effective monitoring and control of activities, while enabling the participation of users of these public services.


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