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Results Briefs August 17, 2021

Strengthening Sustainable Water and Sanitation Services


Santa Cruz do Capibaribe Wastewater Treatment Plant Built Under the Project 


The state of Pernambuco in Brazil strengthened its water sector’s regulatory and institutional environment by creating a state Water Regulatory Agency and investing in water supply and sanitation infrastructure and service improvements. These efforts reduced water rationing for about 900,000 people in the Metropolitan Region of Recife and provided more than 70,000 people with a safe connection to the sewerage network.


In 2010, low water availability in the semi-arid regions of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, coupled with the high rate of urbanization and economic activity in the coastal regions, placed the state’s water resources under stress. Despite high levels of urban water supply coverage (91 %), service was unreliable and intermittent, with only 30 of the 170 municipalities served by the Pernambuco State Water Supply and Sanitation Company (COMPESA) receiving water 24 hours per day. Rationing was commonplace, even in the Metropolitan Region of Recife (MRR). In terms of sanitation, only 20 municipalities had sewerage networks, with an average coverage of about 20 %, contributing to the pollution of water resources. A regulatory agency capable of implementing state policies on water resources management (WRM) and incorporating climate change into policy making was also needed if the state were to aspire to more sustainable water supply and sanitation (WSS) services for its population.



The Brazil Pernambuco Sustainable Water Project was designed to overcome these challenges. To increase availability of water and reduce the population subject to rationing, the project aimed to strengthen the MRR’s water supply conveyance system, establish and isolate hydraulic areas and metering districts, and reduce nonrevenue water (NRW). In terms of sanitation, the project aimed to expand the coverage of wastewater collection and treatment to reduce the organic pollution discharged into the environment, ultimately protecting water resources and their quality. Finally, WRM would be improved by establishing the state water regulatory agency (APAC, for its name in Portuguese), establishing and strengthening river basin committees, and modernizing and expanding the hydrometeorological and water quality monitoring network.


Results associated with the project objective of improving sustainable water supply services were achieved by establishing APAC and making water supply efficiency improvements, attaining the following specific results:

  • APAC, established in 2010, carried out an evaluation of WRM policies and instruments, including planning studies and allocation rules and water rights, and established a state-of-the-art hydrometeorological monitoring and forecasting system with online and real-time information and an effective flood early warning system. As part of APAC’s mandate, water quality is also now monitored on a quarterly basis in 52 stations located in 13 water basins, and the water quality results are shared with bulk water customers. Based on regular rainfall and basin water level monitoring, APAC also issues drought maps and alerts to its customers. In 2015, APAC established 11 Reservoir Management Councils for three critical river basins, contributing to the reduction and mediation of water-use conflicts.
  • As a result of increases in water production and supply efficiency improvements put in place between 2009 and 2020, about 900,000 people in the MRR are no longer subject to rationing and receive 24-hour-per-day water service.
  • An NRW reduction performance-based contract (PBC) was designed and implemented between 2016 and 2020 in the MRR municipality of Olinda. The PBC reduced leaks by 50 % and recuperated over 42.5 million cubic meters of water, which has been used in Olinda or transferred to other areas to alleviate rationing

Results associated with the project objective of improving sanitation services included the following: 

  • Intradomiciliary connections, sewerage networks, and wastewater treatment plants were constructed in two municipalities: Surubim and Santa Cruz do Capibaribe. These now provide a safe wastewater connection to about 70,000 people and remove 1,164 tons of organic pollution (measured as biochemical oxygen demand or BOD) per year.


Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank, through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), provided a loan in the amount of US$190 million to finance this project. In addition, to further strengthen COMPESA’s efficiency in service delivery, the “Smart Urban Water” an externally financed output (EFO) in the amount of GBP 310,000 (approx. US$425,000), financed by the United Kingdom Prosperity Fund (UKPF) and administered by the World Bank, was developed to complement the project, providing technical assistance in NRW control and management from October 2018 to November 2019, in the form of trainings, interaction with innovative technology providers, and diagnostics.


The government of the State of Pernambuco provided US$220 million in counterpart funds. The “Smart Urban Water” EFO provided COMPESA with a complementary technical partnership to strengthen its capacity in NRW management. Synergies were created between the project and the EFO, with the Olinda PBC helping to design a new performance-based contract for the MRR under the EFO, putting project lessons to use and bringing continuity and scale to project achievements. The project also created a space for the exchange of experience with other wastewater utilities in Brazil, with a particularly successful visit to utilities in the State of Rio de Janeiro to learn about the use of interceptor sewers with sanitary sewer overflow in times of heavy rains, an investigation that later inspired the system installed in Santa Cruz do Capibaribe.


The project has had particular impact on about 815,000 of the 900,000 total project beneficiaries living in the MRR, as they went from receiving water only once every five days to benefitting from 24-hour service. An additional 1,185,000 people from the municipalities of Olinda and Jaboatão, and others from the low and high hill areas on the fringes of the Recife municipality, have benefited from additional water availability as a result of the project. For example, in the localities of Rio Doce and Fragoso, water service is now available four days a week, instead of every five days.


Moving Forward

As a follow-up to the EFO, the Supporting Smart Urban Water Management in the MRR Trust Fund, also financed by the UKPF and administered by the World Bank, is building on the achievements realized under the project and the EFO to focus on bringing innovative approaches and equipment to the region to further reduce water losses. In addition, the success of the Olinda PBC and the turnkey contract model implemented in Santa Cruz de Capibaribe to build the wastewater treatment plant will be replicated in a new project, financed by the New Development Bank (NDB), helping to consolidate the knowledge COMPESA gained from implementing these innovative contracts.

Last Updated: Oct 18, 2021