September 23, 2014 EnergyEnvironmentSociety

Utility Management

Essential foundations needed for successful water utilities

Water utilities around the world vary in how they are set up, especially in terms of public or private sector ownership, but they all share management issues on which improvement is needed.

‘There are different dimensions that must be properly addressed to support effective management of water utilities, no matter where in the world,’ says Alexandra Serra, of Portuguese utility Aguas de Portugal.

‘One of the most important dimensions is sound governance,’ adds Serra. ‘[This] includes clear roles for each stakeholder, legal frameworks to enforce transparency and accountability, and multi-stakeholder commitment around national strategic objectives.’

‘Competent leadership, strategic thinking, empowerment, qualified and motivated teams, and technological innovation are also essential foundations for effective management in any region of the world,’ adds Serra, who co-chairs a workshop on water utility management models this afternoon. ‘Last but not least, sustainable-cost recovery strategies must be in place to support the massive capital necessary to finance the construction, expansion, maintenance and operation of water and wastewater infrastructures and at the same time, achieve affordable prices.’

Serra says that the pressure to be more efficient is a key driver for water utilities focusing on best practice ‘along with the need to preserve ecological water quality and to reduce water services operational costs. All these issues will frame future developments in water utilities’ strategies and will have impact in future management models.’

The range of participants in the workshop illustrates the diversity in approaches to utility management. For example, the Mozambique water supply model to be presented has been focused mainly on infrastructure development for water supply in large cities managed at national level, with operation conceded to private companies through short- and medium-term management contracts, whilst the Portuguese national model is based on public-public partnerships managed by regional companies and regulated by in-house contracts.

The example of Singapore’s national water agency, PUB, and its success in the management of the full urban water cycle will also be discussed and contrasted with EPAL EP – the public utility responsible for water services in Luanda, the capital of Angola in southern Africa, which was at war until 2002. The cases of SABESP, a mixed capital company responsible for providing water and sewage service to 364 municipalities of the State of Sao Paulo, and Manila Water Company from the Philippines will also be presented.

The workshop ‘Management models for water utilities’ in Auditorium 4 will bring together a panel of water utility leaders to discuss the success factors of different models.