In 2004, the World Bank began large-scale program of direct lending to municipalities in Brazil to help local governments build up their capacity and services in response to the 2000 Federal Fiscal Responsibility Law. Uberaba’s Agua Viva, one of the first round municipal loan projects, promoted broad quality of life improvements in the municipality through integrated water management projects that mitigated flooding in the city center, increased the percentage of treated wastewater by over 40%, created 37 hectares of new parkland, and strengthened local environmental institutions and education.
Uberaba, a city of 315,000 in the state of Minas Gerais, faced major challenges in water management both in terms of institutions and physical infrastructure. Although water supply coverage was high at 99% and 95% of wastewater was collected, poor infrastructure, especially the lack of virtually any wastewater treatment, meant that serious quality of life issues with regard to water remained.
Changing land use, often coupled with deforestation and increased soil erosion, contributed to loss of biodiversity and deteriorated water quality of the Uberaba River. Direct discharge of untreated wastewater into the river before it passed through the municipality was also a major problem. Water supply from the Uberaba Reservoir and deep supplemental wells was adequately treated and distributed, but high losses led to occasional rationing. Macro-drainage problems in several neighborhoods and the city center were exacerbated by accelerated urban development and increased impermeability, resulting in regular, severe flooding that led to property and commercial losses, snarling of traffic, and occasional injuries.
CODAU, the local water utility, was not equipped to solve these issues with its insufficient management structure, ineffective metering, and historically low investments in infrastructure.
Given the scale and integrated nature of the project, the whole city of Uberaba saw real quality-of-life benefits from the Project; in almost every category, the number of beneficiaries actually exceeded the original target. Drainage works have mitigated flooding for over 3000 properties, as well the city center; the entire municipal population’s water supply is more regular and secure; discharge of untreated wastewater has fallen dramatically; and the riverside “linear park” alone has had over 72,000 annual visitors. Participants of all ages, but especially children 8-11, were also directly benefited by the Project’s environmental education program.
Taking into account the interlinked nature of the city’s water problems, Agua Viva designed a set of interconnected solutions to address the full scope of water issues present. The Project followed an approach to integrate urban water management (IUWM), in which water supply, wastewater management, drainage and related aspects were all effectively incorporated in the Project’s analyses, planning and interventions.
The Project’s efforts to ensure adequate levels of water quality by collecting and treating wastewater, to reduce flooding in the city center, and to combat potable water losses, were complemented with activities to educate the population on the benefits of water and environmental conservation while providing the inhabitants with much-needed green spaces and leisure areas around the city’s water bodies.
To achieve better treatment rates and corresponding water quality, wastewater conveyance systems for Conquistinha stream and the Uberaba River were undertaken. To control flooding, a retention pond was constructed and the area surrounding it was upgraded into a pleasant urban park setting; and micro and macro-drainage works implemented in flood-prone areas (especially in the city-center). To enhance water supply reliability, three water mains and over 100,000 micrometers were replaced, the municipal cadaster was updated and a program for water loss reduction was prepared.
Beyond infrastructure, the Project also confronted the larger issue of environmental awareness and engagement by the community by constructing two new urban parks, undertaking a successful social outreach campaign during the works themselves, and implementing a comprehensive environmental education program in the project-financed Center for Environmental Education.
The wastewater conveyance systems for the Conquistinha and Uberaba wastewater treatment plants are completed, including the Uberaba treatment plant working since 2009 and the Conquistinha plant soon to be completed. Eighty-two percent of the planned 26 km of wastewater interceptors in the city center have been constructed, and the local utility has begun monitoring water quality regularly. When all works are completed (expected by December 2015), 90% of wastewater collected in Uberaba will be treated—up from 44% at project closing, and 2% before Agua Viva.
Avenues with macro-drainage works installed have seen no major flooding since the implementation of the project’s works, with a resulting 244% increase in property values in those areas and quality of life improvements for a broad section of the city’s population. The water utility, CODAU, has reduced water losses by over 13%– equivalent to 1.2 million m3 per year. Additionally, the Project financed 37 hectares of new urban parks, and a comprehensive environmental education program, including relevant university courses, have been installed in the multi-use center for environmental education.
Bank Group Contribution
Bank loan disbursements for Uberaba Agua Viva totaled US$ 16.03 million— 93% of the US$ 17.27 million allocated at appraisal.
Both Brazil’s Federal PAC program and CODAU, the local water utility, provided funds towards the municipality’s project counterpart contribution.
The municipality remains committed to finishing the remaining project works, most importantly the sanitation infrastructure, which should lead major improvements in the Uberaba River’s water quality. Additionally, Uberaba will continue building its capacity in project supervision and monitoring, including environmental licensing, activities under the Project-financed Environmental Action Plan, and institutionalization of the Project Management Unit as a permanent municipal body.