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Results BriefsSeptember 19, 2023

Utility of the Future - Taking Water and Sanitation Utilities Beyond the Next Level

The Utility of the Future (UoF) program is designed to ignite transformation in water and sanitation utilities. The Program is growing rapidly, and to date has reached over 80 utilities in more than 30 countries. All Utility of the Future resources are publicly available in 10 languages.

Beneficiary Quote

Ms. Chea Sokmana, Deputy Head of Office of Siem Reap Sewerage and Wastewater Treatment Plant Unit, Cambodia

"Thanks to the Utility of the Future program we identified several 'quick-win' actions that are making our utility perform better as we deliver better services to our clients. For example, in less than 50 days after the launch of the program we optimized our billing process. Now, we don’t need any signatures from the managers of the utility (we needed 3 signatures before) and have digitalized the process. This is improving our commercial system and is allowing us to bill all customers in time, which we expect will increase our revenues in the short term, helping to make the utility financially sustainable." —Ms. Chea Sokmana, Deputy Head of Office of Siem Reap Sewerage and Wastewater Treatment Plant Unit, Cambodia

More testimonials from the program: Mozambique-Maputo, Mozambique-XaiXai, Zambia-Nkana, and Indonesia-Palembang.


Worldwide, 2.4 billion people remain without access to improved sanitation, and nearly 0.7 billion remain without access to improved drinking water sources. Those who have access to water supply and sanitation services often must cope with intermittent water supply, sewerage system overflows, and poor customer service. Poor service frequently stems from a vicious cycle of dysfunctional political environments and inefficient practices. Global forces—including climate change, water scarcity, population growth, and rapid urbanization—exacerbate these challenges to providing high-quality, sustainable water supply and sanitation service delivery. Utilities throughout our client countries—who are at the center of meeting the aspirational goal of universal access to water and sanitation services—are faced with the challenge of matching supply with demand given serious capacity and resource constraints. Therefore, water supply and sanitation utilities require a new approach to planning and sequencing reforms in order to provide services in a sustainable manner.


The Utility of the Future (UoF) developed a simple methodology and user-friendly tools to guide utilities in the process of transformation and continuous improvement by involving and empowering utility staff from the beginning to take ownership of the change. The UoF program provides this a new approach, building on an extensive body of knowledge on utility performance improvement.

The UoF Program contains a portfolio of more than 150 processes covering all aspects of utility performance and management, which guides participating utilities in their efforts to improve the services offered. In addition to the guidance provided across the traditional elements of utility performance such as commercial management, financial management, strategic planning, technical operations, and human resources, the program inspires utilities to be better prepared for the future by exposing them to best-fit practices related to innovation, inclusion, market orientation and resilience.

The Utility of the Future Program follows a human-centered approach that places people/staff at the center of the transformation process, ensuring that they are not only part of the process but that they are empowered and take ownership of the results. Therefore, the UoF program tries to involve as many utility staff as possible in the process, so they are part of the analysis of the state of the utility, the identification of ideas and solutions to improve, and the implementation of improvement actions to ensure the sustainability of improvements over the long term.

The utilities that are part of the program participate in different knowledge exchange scenarios with other utilities around the world such as cross-fertilization workshops between utilities to share experiences and best practices.

For UoF to be scalable, a “franchise” operation scheme was developed, where consultants and/or local institutions are trained in the countries to replicate the program, in addition to strengthening local capacities. To date, more than 20 consultants and/or institutions have been trained in Albania, Bosnia, Cambodia, Kenya, Kosovo, Lebanon, Moldova, Mozambique, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, and Zambia, among others.

80 Utilities

Between 2020 and 2022, the Utility of the Future program reached over 80 utilities to initiate their transformation process and incorporate continuous improvement.


Over the course of two years between 2020 and 2022, the Utility of the Future Program achieved the following results: 

  • The program reached over 80 utilities to initiate their transformation process and incorporate continuous improvement. In each implementation of the program, approximately 20 short-term improvement actions are applied, such as policy development, process improvement, customer satisfaction surveys, work environment analysis, updating of the customer database, training in different areas, among others. In addition, a strategic plan is prepared as a baseline for the development of a business plan and to identify main investment needs.  
  • UoF designed an implementation strategy in 30 countries specific to each of them according to their needs, capacities, and priorities. For example, in the Philippines, the Department of the Interior and Local Government  team was trained with the franchise model (will now implement UoF directly in more than 300 utilities in the country with its own resources.Iin Peru, UoF was used as part of the national utilities modernization program and baseline for the definition of technical assistance for 6 utilities.Iin Albania, UoF is being used to consolidate the utilities regionalization strategy. And in Honduras, UoF was used to support the creation of a new utility as an entity independent from the municipality.
  • Under its open-knowledge policy, the UoF Program has developed valuable resources that are publicly available in 10 languages (UoF FrameworkUoF ToolkitUoF Training Kit).
  • The program created the UoF Global Youth Challenge,  which attracted over 200  young professionals to the water sector, while in parallel identifying innovative solutions to specific utility problems,. This initiative was created primarily to create awareness among young professionals and to awaken their interest in the water sector. (UoF Challenge 2021, UoF Challenge 2022). 

Bank Group Contribution

The Utility of the Future program was developed with the support of the Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) – the World Bank’s umbrella water program funded by the Governments of Australia, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United States; as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation –  with an approximate annual budget of $250,000.


The UoF program has partnered with several actors across the water spectrum. It started the work partnering with the private sector, whereby consulting and technology firms shared their experience, innovations and best practices to inform the development of the tool. The implementation of the program is a partnership per-se, where the UoF team shares the knowledge and presents the approach while the Government (or a local firm) carries out the implementation. At the end, new practices and approaches identified by the local partner are retrofitted into the tool to be further applied in future implementations. The UoF program also partnered with the Voice of the Danube platform to develop the Utility Management Training for utilities in Central and Eastern Europe (UMT Program), where the UoF program was used to structure a training offered to water practitioners in Europe. To date more than 30 utility staff have participated in the training and benefited from this novel approach.   

Looking Ahead 

The UoF operating model is designed to be replicable and scalable. So far, consultants, staff, and local organizations in various countries have been trained to replicate and sustain the model, ensuring that the knowledge stays in the country. Moreover, the UoF material is constantly updated and improved considering the trends and needs of the sector. Each year, the UoF program launches a new version with updated practices and new features. In 2023, the UoF3.0 version will be launched, where, in addition to migrating to a web-based platform, it will include more than 300 reference resources such as videos, case studies, manuals and other additional learning resources for utilities. In addition, the upcoming version will also provide tools and guidance to empower utilities to become a driving force in the achievement of universal access to water and sanitation services 

The Bank has partnered with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, Government of Switzerland (SECO) that contributed $10 million to launch the Utility of the Future Center of Excellence, which will act as a knowledge hub pushing the frontier on utility performance and service innovations, and connecting utilities at local, regional, and global levels. In addition, it will provide access to performance-based grants for "quick-win" measures to improve performance and boost sustainability of water and sanitation utilities; and will incubate projects as it will help identify needs and opportunities for further support and help utilities in the preparation/development of strategic infrastructure investments.

Learn More

The Utility of the Future Program


The Rzeszów Water Utility in Poland generates almost 50% of the energy it consumes through biofuel and solar power.

The Rzeszów Water Utility, a "Utility of the Future" in Poland, generates almost 50 percent of the energy it consumes through biofuel and solar power. Photo Credit: World Bank