Water utilities are crucial for guaranteeing the human right to safe water and sanitation. The session “Government, pay your water bills!” on August 25th at the Week on Water for Development (WW4D) shed light on the issue of governmental non-payment of water and sewage bills. This issue can heavily starve utilities of much-needed resources to operate efficiently and become economically viable. Also it is of great importance as most utility managers, government representatives, and development partners are aware of the matter, but rarely discuss it openly. This session brought together utility managers, development partners and civil society organizations to openly discuss, in four different breakout groups, the topics of governmental non-payment, its impact, and the strategies to overcome it..
Research presented by Sara Ramos, member of Solutions for Water Integrity and Management (SWIM), demonstrated that 95% of the utilities investigated across 18 countries – mostly from the global south – reported cases of governmental non-payment. The reasons identified were diverse, ranging from political interference to the belief that government entities and public service providers should not have to pay for water and sanitation services.
Civil society campaign in Zambia
In Zambia, for example, services to government institutions comprised 50% of the utility’s anticipated operational revenue in the financial year of 2019/20; however, the bills were not paid. Bubala Muyovwe, from the NGO WASH Forum in Zambia, explained the diverse reasons for these developments, ranging from weakness in cooperate governance to failure to prepare financial statements. Furthermore, Muyovwe highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial stability of water utilities stating that revenues have declined even further while expenses have risen due to, for instance, the purchase of additional chemicals. Although the government has developed strategies to overcome governmental non-payment such as, the installation of prepaid water meters, the problem prevails. Muyovwe stated that the next steps of a civil society campaign in Zambia will be to raise awareness of the issue through the media, collaborate with various utilities, and to exert pressure on the Ministry of Finance.
Getting the government to pay its bills in Romania
In her opening statement, Sara Ramos highlighted that the issue of governmental non-payment is solvable and there are diverse approaches to tackle it in the long run. In his breakout session Teodor Popa from the Romanian Water Company (Brasov), presented a successful example outlining how Romania was able to solve the problem 10-20 years ago. In Romania, the root of the problem was, among others, the lack of regulations and the problem of legal enforcement of non-payment. Consequently, certain measures were identified and implemented to address non-payment. The most important of these measures discussed were (i) the establishment and legal strengthening of regulators who can enforce the payment of unpaid accounts, (ii) the simplification of the legal process to sue for arrears, and (iii) the establishment of accountability provisions for government institutions in which they need to show that the funds have been used to settle arrears. Furthermore, through structural change, water utilities gained more independence from political interference.
What regulators can do: experiences from Rwanda
In this breakout session, Jacques Nzitonda, Director of Water and Sanitation from Rwanda,highlighted different ways that regulators can provide incentives for government institutions to pay their bills. Advocating for government institutions to allocate annual line budgets, as well as, the inclusion of indicators on government debt in utility reporting, were identified as the most influential measures to transform the issue of non-payment. Additionally, he noted that utilities should be encouraged and authorized to disconnect government institutions in case of non-payment. In the case of Rwanda, it was possible to address the issue through the increase of queries by the auditor general if a government institution has arrears. Overall, the aforementioned methods to address non-payment also played an important role in the utilities ability to take on commercial financing loans.
Supporting civil society space and voice through international advocacy
The role of civil society was comprehensively discussed in this breakout session. Al-Hassan Adam from End Water Poverty explained how a civil society-led campaign can exert pressure on government institutions to pay their water bills. The key aspects of such campaign would be to put local partners upfront and assure its flexibility.. Al-Hassan further emphasized that civil society is not homogeneous and that its diverse organisations operate differently in the light of national politics.
The key insights of this session were that the problem is very real and the question should be how we address it. People are right-holders and governments are duty-bearers; it is, therefore, the government’s responsibility for human rights to water and sanitation, and non-payment undermines it. If the government does not pay, it is the individual who will have to compensate for the costs through higher tariffs or poorer service. However, examples from Romania or Rwanda showed that governmental non-payment is a solvable problem, but only if there is the willingness and the long-term vision to make this behavioral and cultural change.
For more information on the issue of governmental non-payment, we invite you to read our policy brief click here.
Transboundary basins account for roughly 60% of freshwater resources, serving around 40% of the world’s population. Managing these shared water resources for the benefit of each country’s population, particularly the … Read more
Nearly 120,000 people have been displaced by flash floods caused by heavy rains across Chad in the month just ended. At least 32,000 of the affected persons are in the … Read more
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DigDeep USA | Home-Based / Remote
Position Type: Full-Time | Organization Type: NGO/Civil Society
Experience Level: Senior (10+ Years) | Degree Required: Bachelor’s (Or Equivalent)
Simply Put: DigDeep is the only WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) organization serving the more than 2 million Americans who still don’t have a tap or toilet at home. DigDeep is growing fast. We won the 2018 US Water Prize for our Navajo Water Project, which has brought clean, running water to hundreds of Native families across New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.
The Director of Engineering leads and coordinates DigDeep’s water, sanitation, and hygiene systems, including the design, technical implementation, operational excellence, and long-term sustainability. This position will support headquarters and field programs by creatively identifying appropriate technology, preparing and reviewing designs, monitoring system performance, and providing leadership and oversight throughout the project cycle.
The Director of Engineering is responsible for actively participating in the development and completion of projects, ensuring quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of DigDeep’s WASH systems, providing expert guidance and support, and maintaining positive relationships with both internal and external stakeholders,
“When the crisis hit Mombasa in March, we found ourselves in a no-go zone, in terms of accessing some of our customers, because of the lockdown which sealed off some parts of the city. Yet at the same time, our services were categorised as essential and we had to respond to the government directive to keep on supplying water. So we were in a Catch-22 situation of some sort.
Our offices, in central Mombasa, face the Old Town of the city, which was one of the epicentres of the pandemic in Kenya. From my office you could see the policemen guarding Old Town during the lockdown.
Our staff had to keep going into Old Town, to give them emergency water. There are some markets on the borderline, which were the only source of food for the people living in Old Town.
We had to keep supplying water to these markets, so that the people in Old Town could keep on living.
The government directives to continue to supply water to all residents regardless of whether bills were paid were understandable in the crisis, but it has affected our revenues. The first month – March – we lost 35% of our revenues. We have not broken even in the last few years, so this is a big issue.
Mombasa has been hugely affected by the pandemic. The city’s economy is dependent on two key things – the port, and tourism. Both of these went down in a flash.
When I was in school I read a book by Chinua Achebe called Things Fall Apart. And there was a main character called Okonkwo. One of the seasons they had was one of the worst, where he borrowed 800 yam seeds and planted them and the rains never came, and when they came, they came very destructive. And it was so bad, one man just took a piece of cloth and hanged himself. And after that, Okonkwo used to say, if I survived then, I can survive any other thing.
And for us Covid-19 is the same thing, its been one of the biggest challenges in most managers’ careers, but for me, I was at the centre of it all.
I had to quickly reorganise my team to address the issues that we had to overcome. We divided ourselves into two teams, which would not be in contact with each other. We allowed people to work from home where they could, or to cover local areas to reduce movement as much as possible.
One of our biggest challenges was to provide water in the vulnerable areas. We mapped the city into zones and focused on the most vulnerable areas. We constructed concrete bases to enable us to install a 5,000 litre tank on top. The water was for free, so that people were not tempted to go to cartels. Water cartels always take advantage of a negative situation, to make people’s lives even more difficult.
There were also public service institutions which needed water. Within 24 hours of the government directive being given we went to Kenya Ferries and put 100 taps in. Then we did a hydrological survey and realised that there is fresh water there. So we drilled on the island side of the ferry and the mainland, and connected with a pump, so now there was a guaranteed supply of water for 24 hours.
We know that in another wave of Covid-19, we may not be able to move around freely to bill. So we bought 100 smart meters that can be read remotely, and we picked a few customers just to test. We were amazed at the response – not just in enabling us to social distance, but with the numbers that came through.
Through the efforts of staff, our revenue position is improving. We are now just 10% down and I believe we will be able to catch up in September.
When we had the first case of Covid-19 with our staff, 15 staff including myself had to self-isolate.
Personally, this was one of the most trying moments in my entire life. Those three weeks I was in the house, in the room, stuck there, it was scary – but at the same time, I had 300 staff who were looking up to me. I spent a lot of time coordinating with staff, to keep myself busy and sane.
I do think that now, there is greater appreciation from the general public, and the government, about the role of water utilities.
Water has never been on the high table for discussion. When you look at donors, all of them rush to health, but they don’t seem to realise that prevention is better than cure.
The other day I heard that at least Ksh 300,000 [$2,700] had been spent to treat a single Covid-19 case. I don’t think you spend Ksh 300,000 to give someone water. If you were to spend the equivalent on water, I think people would be safer.
But for the first time in eight years, the County government of Mombasa has allocated Ksh250 million to support the water sector.
In Mombasa, we do face a water scarcity problem. We have only enough water to meet around 15% of demand, and around 74% of the population is low-income.
But despite this, I do believe universal water access in Mombasa is possible. Completion of the Mwache Dam, and repair of the Mzima pipeline and construction of a second pipeline, Mzima II, would give us enough water. In addition if we could get a cheaper electricity tariff which was just for water – like there is for streetlights, for example, it could make desalination possible.
But our infrastructure is aging. Some of our pipelines were built in the 1920s. Water is just not something that people have taken seriously. This country is full of water, just mismanaged water. The entire country has a NRW [non-revenue water – water that is lost or not billed for] rate of 43%, a very high number when the global rate is around 22%.
There is a stereotype that water is always available, and as a result we have never properly developed the water sector. This myth about water being just freely available, without the need for investment to manage it properly, needs to be debunked.
We in the water sector are a sum total of failures across the generations, and probably Covid-19, and the spotlight subsequently shone on the water sector, is making our work a bit easier.”
WSUP has worked closely with MOWASSCO for several years, helping the utility to better serve low-income communities with clean water. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic WSUP is currently implementing hygiene promotion campaigns in Mombasa and other Kenyan cities, supported by the UK government / Unilever backed Hygiene Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC).
Heavy seasonal rains have caused flash floods and rivers to burst their banks, including the Nile in the capital Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman, and affected thousands of internally … Read more
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Tetra Tech ARD Request for Proposal (RFP) No. 1866-003 – Date: September 8, 2020
The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Partnerships and Learning for Sustainability (WASHPaLS) project is a centrally funded activity of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Global Health Bureau, implemented by Tetra Tech ARD and partners.
The objective of this RFP is to adapt existing MHM measure(s), as appropriate, for applicability to the workplace and/or advance development of metrics to more comprehensively capture menstrual needs, practices/behaviors, as well as attitudes and social norms relating to MHM in the workplace, and field test these in two or more countries to develop a set of validated metrics which can be considered for inclusion in broad-scale, national surveys such as the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS).
By John Sauer Geoff Revel knows the value of sustainable, market-driven local solutions, having led an organization called WaterSHED Cambodia that supported local businesses and governments to generate sales of over 200,000 toilets to rural consumers. Inspired by business solutions, Geoff has now transformed the NGO into WaterSHED Ventures, a social business that sells water,…
The Nile River Basin faces a huge challenge in terms of water security. With an expected doubling of the population in the basin in the next twenty-five years, water supply … Read more
A prize to reward excellence in urban liquid waste management in Ghana.
The Sanitation Challenge for Ghana (SC4Gh) Prize was launched on World Toilet Day, 19th November 2015 as a component of the Ideas to Impact global initiative to stimulate competition among Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and to encourage inclusive partnership for the design and implementation of liquid waste management (LWM) strategies.
In 2017, the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources launched the Prize for Private Sector and Non-State Actors alongside the SC4Gh to induce the private sector to partner with the competing MMDAs to improve LWM and to influence innovations, expertise and investments in the target localities.
The SC4Gh for MMDAs was funded by DFID-UK and the Prize for Private Sector and Non-State Actors by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The prize competition took place from November 2015 to July 2019 under the auspices of the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources with technical support from IRC Ghana, IMC Worldwide and Maple Consult.
The SC4Gh Prize for MMDAs was in two stages. The design of MMDA LWM strategies constituted the first stage and the implementation of the strategies the second stage. At the end of stage 1, on 30 April 2016, 48 of the 127 MMDAs who registered for the competition submitted their strategies for adjudication. 21 of the 48 MMDAs excelled and were duly recognised with honorary prizes with 3 winning a total of GBP 75,000 in monetary awards.
All 21 MMDA were invited to express interest to participate in the implementation of their winning strategies; and 17 of the 21 MMDAs met the minimum condition and were considered for stage 2. At this stage, the prize for private sector and non-state actors was also introduced.
At the end of the stage 2 process on March 27, 2019, 15 of the 17 MMDAs and 14 of the over 60 registered private sector and non-state actors submitted their final implementation reports. These were screened and passed to an independent Verification Agent to verify the reports and subsequently to a panel of international and local judges for online and live judging to determine the deserving winners.
At the grand dignified city award on July 24, 2019 at the Marriott Hotel in Accra, 9 MMDAs and 6 private partners were announced and presented with a total prize value of GBP 1,285,000 and US$ 225,000 respectively - for excellence in the implementation of urban liquid waste management strategies and exploring inclusive partnership to influence innovations, expertise and investments in the target localities towards bringing transformational changes to city-wide sanitation service delivery.
The video below presents a snapshot of the SC4Gh events leading to the award and the Grand Dignified City Award ceremony, which took place on July 24, 2019 in Accra, Ghana.
Video stories of change from two Ghanaian districts as a result of post-construction interventions.
IRC Ghana has been providing post-construction support to Akatsi North and South Districts in the Volta Region of Ghana as part of the district system strengthening efforts. This intervention is a move towards professionalising the work of area mechanics and equipping them with the necessary skills to perform their tasks more effectively for improved water service delivery.
"In the light of long-term sustainability of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions, post-construction support is critical for continued maintenance and operation of rural water systems," IRC Ghana Country Director, Vida Duti noted.
Through IRC Ghana’s work in Akatsi North and South Districts under the Triple-S project, tools were developed in collaboration with the districts to support post-construction support for water facilities. IRC in collaboration with CWSA, worked with the districts to conduct service monitoring over three years. Following up on the previous work and to ensure that progress is being made to achieve the national target of full coverage by 2025 and the SDG of universal coverage by 2030, IRC Ghana has since 2017 provided the local authorities in the two districts with the tools and technical support to position them to lead in the process.
As part of the post-construction intervention in the two districts, the Akatsi South and North District Assemblies in collaboration with IRC Ghana organised a number of training workshops for area mechanics in the two districts to equip them with the skills and knowledge to undertake installation, uninstallation, repair and maintenance of various types of handpumps in the districts.
Earlier this year, the IRC Ghana documentation team visited selected communities in the two districts to collect and document stories of change and lessons emanating from the intervention. The visit to the two districts took place in February 2020, meeting community members, trained artisans, Water and Sanitation Management Team members and District Assembly staff including District Chief Executives in both districts, conducting community visits and interviews. The team was accompanied by staff of the District Assembly in both districts, helping the team in community entry and translations.
The following three short videos highlight the experiences of change in the lives of communities in the two districts as a result of the post-construction support intervention. They represent examples from real-life about how small but targeted interventions towards local system strengthening can make a difference in the lives of many communities in the districts.
These three short videos reflect the perspectives of the community members, area mechanics and the district authorities, respectively.
They trained us to repair the boreholes for the communities
When they collect revenue from the sale for water, it has most of the times been misapplied
It's government's responsibility to ensure communities have good source of water
The new IUCN report Approaches to sustainable agriculture aims to shed some light on the abundance of understandings and terminology in the field – the many different approaches, practices, concepts – … Read more
CKM Team Updates to Globalwaters.org
Technical Brief: USAID Water and Development Technical Series: Gender Equality and Female Empowerment in WASH – This Water and Development Technical Brief provides guidance for designing strategies, projects, and activities that improve women’s and girl’s empowerment in WASH.
Activities should account for women and girls as more than beneficiaries of water and sanitation services. They are consumers, customers, influencers, professionals, household deciders, and keepers of traditional knowledge and solutions. Water and sanitation activities that empower women to be change agents have multiple benefits.
Participatory approaches are key. Gender-related barriers to WASH vary widely by geographic, religious, legal, and cultural context, and whether multiple layers of vulnerability––such as disability or extreme poverty––exist. Programs must take the time to understand the preferences, needs, and experiences of the women and girls and the specific barriers they face. The economic, health, educational, environmental, and social benefits to women’s empowerment in the water and sanitation sector must be a priority for all.
In March 2019 Cyclone Idai caused devastation across Mozambique, including in the city of Beira which suffered from widespread flooding and severe damage to its water network. A major relief operation saw many residents housed in resettlement camps with limited access to clean water and safe sanitation facilities.
With the support of Borealis and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, WSUP has been working to restore and improve water and sanitation services for low-income residents in the most affected districts of Beira.
Throughout this work WSUP has been focusing on creating more resilient services to ensure that, as climate change makes extreme weather like cyclones more common, vulnerable residents in Beira have sustainable access to clean water and safe sanitation.
A key part of WSUP’s work in Beira has been supporting the local water utility FIPAG to extend their water network and provide an improved water supply for their low-income customers. Alongside the utility staff we worked to extend the network to the most underserved areas of the city, particularly areas unable to supply water to additional residents resettled after the cyclone.
This has helped residents like Ancha Luis, a Beira resident currently living in a resettlement camp, access a reliable source of water.
“Every day we faced many challenges to clean ourselves. There was a shortage of water for drinking, washing clothes including the dishes. Now the search for water has become a lot better compared to when we first arrived. We used to have to walk from Block C to Block A, as the resettlement camp is divided in blocks.”
WSUP has supported FIPAG to rehabilitate 112km of the existing network, including repairing and replacing worn pipes. WSUP helped facilitate communication between FIPAG and the community to promote the benefits of the project and raise awareness of the necessary requirements for households to get a potable water connection. This has helped to provide a more reliable service for low-income customers, ensuring existing water connections can continue to serve residents in the future.
This work has proved crucial for water connections in resettlement camps where large increases in the number of residents after the cyclone meant water fountains could initially only run for a few hours a day. Joao Manuel, a community chief living in a resettlement camp, recalls the dire situation in the days after the cyclone.
“When we arrived here, there was no water. We spent about 15 to 20 days without water and when we did get access it wasn’t enough for everyone.”
In the longer term, WSUP is working with FIPAG to extend water connections in peri-urban communities which are unserved, using high quality PE100 pipes.
WSUP has also been supporting community-based organisations that are directly supporting the most vulnerable communities in Beira to access water and sanitation services. This has included rebuilding the offices of these organisations and providing training to increase their capacity to support residents struggling in the aftermath of the cyclone.
For Domingos Mafunga, Coordinator of the Vision for Community Development Association, a community-based organisation supporting residents in Beira, WSUP’s support has been vital in ensuring his team can promote good sanitation and hygiene practices to displaced residents.
“The biggest challenge we all face is sanitation. It is a critical activity, because the majority of the population come from rural areas, so they are not used to an urban lifestyle.”
The 9th World Water Forum will be hosted in Senegal, on March 22-27 2021, under the theme: Water Security for Peace and Development. The forum focuses on the 2030 Agenda for … Read more
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The United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES) is accepting applications from graduates in engineering, social sciences, and natural sciences for its PhD … Read more
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