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publication November 5, 2018

GWSP Toolkit Series: Building Sustainable Water Utilities

A dam under construction in Sri Lanka.

GWSP Toolkit Series

1. Financing the SDGs

2. Building Sustainable Utilities

3. Policies, Institutions and Regulation

 

Building Sustainable Water Utilities

For more than 20 years the World Bank has been grappling with how best to help clients build sustainable utilities – that provide good quality, affordable, services that can meet the needs of ever growing and ever more demanding customers.

Early Approaches Toward Autonomy

Early approaches included corporatization of state owned enterprises and the use of tariff covenants in projects – believing that increased financial and managerial autonomy would provide the opportunity for utilities to thrive. When this failed to produce the expected results, there was a push towards more private sector involvement in the financing and management of service providers. Various toolkits were produced by PPIAF, and have since be updated, but results were mixed. Improved understanding and examples of regulatory activities proceeded in parallel. 

Taking Stock: Benchmarking and Assessments

However, with more than 90% of service providers publicly managed, practitioners in the early 2000s looked to better understand the key characteristics of well-run public water companies, established a benchmarking database to allow comparison of performances, investigated opportunities for aggregation, undertook studies on governance and summarized lessons from successful reforms.


Renewing the Conceptual Framework: Institutions, Financing, Climate Change

This body of knowledge provided task teams with tools and information to better engage with clients but there were still many shortfalls in understanding. A big push was initiated in 2014 to drive the knowledge agenda forwards on multiple fronts. Utilities needed to be placed within their policy, institutional and regulatory environment, new sources of financing had to be mobilized to meet the demands of the SDGs, climate change was driving a need for greater resilience, and new models for engaging with the private sector were overdue  (forthcoming publication).

Turning Concepts into Practical Solutions

Utility managers (and the task teams supporting them) needed tools to go beyond concepts into practical solutions. This led, most recently, to the development of the utility turnaround framework (a structured analytical approach with costed solutions), the water utility aggregation toolkit, and guidance notes/contract documentation on the use of performance-based contracts to reduce non-revenue water and delivering new treatment facilities using Design, Build Operate contracts.  

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REFERENCES (in order of appearance in the summary)

Early Approaches Toward Autonomy

Taking Stock: Benchmarking and Assessments

Renewing the Conceptual Framework: Institutions, Financing, Climate Change

  • Kolker, Joel Evan; Kingdom, Bill; Trémolet, Sophie; Winpenny, James; Cardone, Rachel. 2016. Financing Options for the 2030 Water Agenda. Water Global Practice Knowledge Brief;. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank.

Turning Concepts into Practical Solutions