How Can Water Firms Become Utilities Of The Future?
The water crisis is one that affects all four corners of the globe, whether countries face issues with contaminated water sources, insufficient access to basic drinking water or access to safely managed sanitation services.
As global populations increase and, consequently, the world grows thirstier and thirstier, water utilities have a big role to play in making sure that a reliable, safe and sustainable water supply exists, alongside fully operational sanitation services.
However, according to the World Bank, many of these utility companies are not yet ready to take on future challenges, such as problems recovering operational costs, being unable to provide services to growing populations and struggling to recover from external problems like climate change, extreme weather events and risks like covid-19.
Another issue facing utility companies is the fact that, although lots of money is spent on infrastructure, it’s often the case that said infrastructure isn’t properly operated or maintained, which leads to it becoming dilapidated and in need of replacing – so firms find themselves such in a cycle of build-neglect-rebuild.
To help utility companies get to grips with the various challenges they’re now facing, the World Bank has come up with a Utility of the Future programme, designed to help firms reinvent themselves and implement a process of change to drive continued improvement and learning, making these integral parts of their DNA.
A Utility of the Future is one that strives to provide safe, reliable, inclusive, responsive and transparent water supply and sanitation services by adopting best-fit practices in a sustainable, resilient and efficient way.
The programme itself involves close working between firms and the World Bank, with the aim being to introduce a transformative process that ensures utilities reach the desired performance and maturity by prioritising international best practices across the value chain, focusing on a 100-day action plan to jumpstart reform and tackle the biggest issues, as well as a five-year strategic plan to address the problems that require more time.
Figures from the World Health Organization for 2019 show that 785 million people lack basic drinking water services, with 144 million dependent on surface water. Around the world, there are at least two billion people using water sources contaminated with faeces, which can transmit diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, polio and typhoid.
It’s also predicted that by 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas, with the crisis being driven by population growth, extreme weather events, climate change, water mismanagement and ageing infrastructure.
In the world’s least developed countries, 22 per cent of healthcare facilities have no water service, 22 per cent have no waste management service and 21 per cent no sanitation service. Sustainable Development Goal target 6.1 calls for equitable and universal access to affordable and safe drinking water services.
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