Global Data on Water Utilities Reveals Sector Growth but Bottlenecks in Wastewater Service Delivery

October 23, 2014

WASHINGTON, October 23, 2014While water utilities around the world are able to provide water services to more people than previous years, the financial crises of 2008 and 2010 hampered utilities’ development and delivery of improved wastewater services, especially in poor urban areas, according to a report from the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), part of the World Bank Group’s Water Global Practice

The International Benchmarking Network Water Supply and Sanitation Blue Book 2014, which analyzed data from 4,400 utilities in more than 135 countries and territories, also found that, despite difficulties, the sector overall showed continued signs of improvement, as municipal water utilities optimized operations over the past decade and as a result, were better able to withstand accelerated urbanization and the impacts of the triple crises of fuel, food, and finance. In addition, an increasing number of utilities now handle water billing, collection, and water management through metering, which is a shift in norms for utilities

“To improve services and secure the resources necessary for meeting increased demand, water utilities need a source of comprehensive, reliable data that compares their performance with that of similar utilities elsewhere,” said WSP Senior Manager Jyoti Shukla. “The Blue Book provides comparative information on utilities' costs and performance, while at the same time offering a global vision of the state of the sector in developing countries.

Building off its inaugural 2011 report, the IBNET Blue Book 2014 highlights trends and monitors the effects of recent crises to help water utilities and governments improve services for all, including the poor. The report analyzes water sector development from 2006–11 to identify improved approaches in building comprehensive indices for water utilities’ performance assessment, as well as to provide a comprehensive look at recent water performance of more than 100 countries

“Recent financial crises seemed to have a major impact on the sector,” said WSP Senior Water and Sanitation Specialist and coauthor Alexander Danilenko. “Sanitation coverage declined noticeably in low-income countries, where—because the revenues and costs are nearly all generated on the local level—the economic environment plays a significant role in water utility performance.

By delivering access to technical and financial information on utility performance, key stakeholders can do their jobs better: utility managers and employees can identify areas for improvement; governments can monitor and adjust sector policies and programs; investors can identify viable markets and opportunities for creating value; and customer groups and NGOs can exercise “voice” in an informed way. IBNET tools, such as data collection instruments and protocols, IBNET database, and IBNET tariff database, enable enhanced sharing of information.  The database represents the equivalent of more than US$40 billion in annual revenue in 2010. The utilities represented in the database employ about 623,000 professional staff

IBNET also continues to support national and regional water associations. The Arab Countries Water Utilities Association (ACWUA) and the Pacific Water and Wastes Association (PWWA) recently benefited from IBNET adding their utilities to the network of peers, as well as providing information from their utilities’ members. IBNET is also in use by the Swiss Development Agency and German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ)

Nearly 1 billion people lack access to safe water and 2.5 billion lack access to improved sanitation. Water and sanitation utilities could expand their services to reach these people but broken pipes, poor management, and inability to cover costs or collect customer payments often prevent service from improving and expanding. IBNET seeks to expand access to comparative data among utilities globally, helping to promote best practice among these service providers and eventually providing consumers with access to high quality and affordable water supply and sanitation services

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