The Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance led by UN-HABITAT, and Cap-Net, the capacity building arm of UNDP on IWRM, jointly hosted a two day planning workshop to plan a capacity building programme in water resources management for water utilities in Nairobi on 22-23 September 2008. The workshop brought together 15 participants representing utilities in Mali, the Philippines, Uganda, and South Africa, as well as representatives of World WaterNet in the Netherlands, the International Water Association (IWA), and the Network for Water and Sanitation (NETWAS), a regional capacity building institution based in Nairobi.
The Water Operators’ Partnerships concept is based on the premise that capacity building and retention, facilitated by networking and mentoring, is urgently needed to equip national and regional water operators’ membership associations, as well as individual utilities, to play a crucial role in meeting the challenges facing the water and sanitation sector in the developing world.
The rationale behind the Water Operators’ Partnerships mechanism is that most of the capacity to improve water and sanitation services exists in many utilities in the developing world and can be shared through the exchange of best practices and dedicated knowledge and capacity transfer. This would enable inefficient utilities and those with inadequate human resource capacity to increase water supply and sanitation services coverage and reduce water pollution, thereby improving the overall quality of health, particularly for the poorest segments of urban populations who are either inadequately catered for, or have no access at all to these basic services.
Cap-Net, with its extensive network of capacity building partners and vast experience in Integrated Water Resource Management, has carried out studies on the relationship between efficiency in water utility management and the levels of water resource management in Uganda, Ethiopia, Mali, Zambia and Tanzania. Results of these studies suggest that most utilities do not look at the impact of upstream water resource management on their operations, or the impact of their own operations on downstream water resources, with sanitation services, including wastewater treatment, which are usually not properly costed, charged for, or financed, receiving low priority. As many utilities are not engaged in ongoing water sector reforms in their countries, they are unaware of how these reforms will impact on their operations.
Building on the results of these studies, UN-Habitat’s capacity building activities within the Water for African Cities (WAC) Programme, as well as the experience of the participants the workshop came up with a plan to develop a capacity building programme to support utilities with policy level engagement, adoption of water demand management practices, and development of water safety plans. Utilities will be supported by a range of training and capacity building modules to be developed jointly by UN-HABITAT and Cap-Net, with input from participating utilities, utility training centres, the Cap-Net global network, and other regional and international partners.