15 Water at the Heart of Science

Water at the Heart of Science
for All?
How can access to water
be improved in cities where two thirds of the world’s population will be concentrated
in 50 years’ time? Scientific diagnosis plays a vital part here.
Millennium goals
The challenges of urbanisation
Urbanisation goes hand in hand
with the rapid expansion of
vast peripheral housing areas
where basic services (drinking
water supply and wastewater
collection, treatment and
disposal) are not provided. The
Millennium Development Goals
aim precisely to fight poverty
by reducing by half, before
2015, the percentage of the
population that has no access
to drinking water supply or to
basic sanitation services.
Access to basic services is a
complex challenge. Ideally, it
requires political will but also
efficient dialogue between
all stakeholders (elected
representatives, administrative
bodies, operators, users, etc.);
it demands significant public
funding as well as a contracting
authority – public or delegated
– with the capacity to provide
technical, social and financial
solutions in a context that is
characterised by poverty and
a sizeable informal sector
(property and revenue).
Scientific research has been
analysing many of the solutions
and strategies implemented by
local and national authorities
in major cities around the
world to improve access to
basic services. By looking at
various forms of public action
and operational systems,
researchers can identify key
factors for improvement as well
as instances of backwardness.
Their diagnosis is an aid to
1 Access to drinking water has
improved: the world rate rose from
77% in 1990 to 87% in 2008. But
disparities still persist between Asia
(from 69% in 1990 to 86% in 2008)
and Africa (from 49% in 1990 to 60%
in 2008).
2 In urban centres in developing
countries, households are often
connected to drinking water and
wastewater collection networks
from home. However, the
inhabitants of shantytowns and
non-regulatory housing areas are
dependent on wells, public taps
or standpipes, or water vendors.
Wastewater is neither collected nor
purified. Bombay, India.
3 In non-regulatory peripheral
neighbourhoods of Casablanca,
Lyonnaise des Eaux of Casablanca
has been given the task of
connecting 75,000 households to
drinking water supply, sanitation
and electricity networks. Today,
50% of the target has been
4 In Casablanca, the project to
connect non-regulatory residential
neighbourhoods to basic services
(electricity, water and sanitation)
requires close cooperation between
all stakeholders (government,
municipality, sponsors, households,
and operator).
5 The rate of connection to
drinking water supply at home is
nearly 100% in countries in the
Global North, but drops to 44% in
developing countries, and 16%
in Sub-Saharan Africa.
6 In developing countries, poor
urban populations often have to
buy water from private resellers,
paying up to 100 times more than
their richer neighbours who are
connected to the drinking water
supply network. Water bottle
deliveryman in Jinghong, China.
Water at the Heart of Science
Management a Key to Success
In Cambodia
the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA) inherited a situation of total dilapidation
after the war. Researchers are looking at the managerial reasons for its spectacular recovery
in ten years – a case that is unique in Asia.
According to researchers,
PPWSA’s success is based
on several factors: political
commitment from local
authorities and a coherent
institutional government
framework; exemplary
professionalism from
the company; significant
infrastructures that benefited
from international funding and
local redistribution of taxes;
and sufficient autonomy for the
service operator with regards
to the political authority.
Research project led by ParisTech - SUEZ
ENVIRONMENT Chair “Water for All”, managed
by AgroParisTech and Mines ParisTech (France).
These leverages were
mobilised by a management
team that was able to
transform the water supply
authority into an economically
and operationally autonomous
service company. Today nearly
all inhabitants, even the most
underprivileged, have access to
water at an acceptable price.
Thanks to international aid
and the impetus of a forwardthinking Director, Ek Sonn
Chan, considerable reform
was undertaken, based on the
human factor as performance
leverage as well as exemplary
organisational and humanresource management methods.
Significant gains in
productivity and the benefits
of this change were brought
about not only by the quality
of the infrastructures, but
also through the efficient
management of unbilled
water (acting against leaks
and fraud), as well as financial
and social performance of
the enterprise.
Phnom Penh
1 91% of the population in the city centre
today have access to water. The big
challenge for PPWSA now is to extend its
services to neighbourhoods on the outskirts
of the fast growing city.
5 Before PPWSA undertook its reform, the
service’s performance was very poor. Water
could only be distributed for 10 hours each
day to 20% of the population, and two thirds
are lost through leaks in the network.
2 The implementation of a forward-thinking
action plan and exemplary management
practices convinced international sponsors
to finance new works (Chroy Chang Var
treatment plant).
6 In 12 years’ time, PPWSA has increased its
rates only twice, and subsidises 50-100% of
the water supply to the most underprivileged
segments of the population.
3 Water treatment plants today ensure the
7 PPWSA employees are trained and
motivated by an internal corporate culture
that combines a professional and team spirit
in the joint interest of all.
distribution of quality water. In the 1990s,
water had to be boiled to make it safe for
4 Employees’ average salaries have
increased with 10% per year over the past
10 years. It is now approximately $200 per
month, which is much higher than salaries in
Cambodia’s public sector, and competitive
compared to the private sector.
8 Besides improving working conditions,
the company finances and provides numerous
training programmes to develop the skills of
its employees. Here, a technician uses an
acoustic device to search for leaks in
the network.
Water at the Heart of Science