- Reseach project
- – Western Pacific
Read the latest updates about the International WaterCentre, as well as contemporary water sector insights, water management news, and conversations with researchers, practitioners and students, from both Australia and abroad.
In the natural world, a diverse ecosystem is a healthy and strong one—and business ecosystems are no different. There’s no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to creating and maintaining these ecosystems to deliver clean water in some of the poorest and most isolated parts of the world. “It’s really important to focus on what is the target population for improving access to water from a business standpoint,” says Mike Barbee from market-based safe water charity Water4, which works with local communities in 12 African nations and Peru. “When developing models to help business partners, we need to determine what markets are untapped in terms of potential, and who does not have access from a rights perspective.” Barbee says that focusing on growth potential for local businesses in the sector will provide safe water for more people. “High quality water costs less than five percent of household income, so it’s very affordable to [the] majority of people. We believe people can and do pay for water even in the most rural areas—whether through potable water at community managed water points, or offsetting household use through paying for sachet or bottled water. “If they don’t have access to safe water, they’re paying indirectly, through lost opportunity costs such as healthcare. We are seeing that as an optional aspect of revenue that our partners can tap into, and also help them understand what they’re spending themselves.” Barbee says that the two greatest barriers to entry for water entrepreneurs are financing, such as obtaining seed capital to start up a business, and having the business savvy to deliver a one-off service from time-to-time and to deliver long-term viability and be able to expand. A 2018 Waterpreneurs white paper, Impact Investing for Water, says that the sector is seeing the emergence of hybrid models for water, sanitation, and hygiene financing, because they are considered the most effective, by combining complementary and sometimes unconventional approaches. “Enterprises also see the potential for the franchise model in markets that require intensive demand generation and where it is difficult to provide direct maintenance support,” the report states. “The franchisee makes an initial investment (down payment), with direct or indirect financial support from the CWP enterprise, and operates the unit under a revenue sharing agreement with the enterprise.” An example project is Jibu, operating in East Africa, which is a social franchise business model. Its structure ensure that entrepreneurs operate within the constraints of a revocable franchise license—meaning they are required to adhere to Jibu’s brand standards and charitable goals. One of the project’s innovations is the integration custom banking services for aspiring entrepreneurs, offering entrepreneurs access to both the upfront asset financing needed to launch a business, as well as infrastructure support to keep profits aligned with impact. “The most important thing when looking at the financing, whether a franchise or build-own-operate models, it to contextualise, and ask what will work in this scenario given the market and the demand and the human capacity and capital there,” says Mike Barbee. “In urban and peri-urban areas, those with experience with franchise models or in commerce, generally might be willing to take on a water business. However, in areas with no expertise, it is difficult to replicate franchises in our experience.” Barbee says that when it comes to growing local businesses to maximise their impact, the sector can be guilty of focusing on front-end support. “There needs to be a greater awareness that the process of supply and support is a medium-to-long term project.” This is the second article in a four-part series that explores ideas to improve water and sanitation funding around the world. Read the series:
“When you make discoveries, you generate more unknowns. The same goes for water management. You can implement something, but the after effect is still unknown until it occurs or a crisis actually happens.” Kevin Chun Teck Lim hails from Malaysia’s Labuan Federal territory, a small island off the north-western coast of Borneo, known for its lush rainforests and picturesque beaches. He spent much of his childhood around water and he credits his upbringing to developing his appreciation of water. “I lived in a pretty diverse region – different cultures, languages and religions. My Dad is Chinese and my Mum is an indigenous person of Sabah, in Malaysia. But I grew up like a normal kid. I think my interest in water really started early on and built more with my career.” Kevin’s journey began with a Degree in Chemical Engineering from Universiti Teknologi Petronas in Malaysia. This led him to a graduate program with Continental Tyres. The program saw Kevin head to the other side of the world, to work in the Continental Tyres’ headquarters in Germany. Over the next three and a half years, he worked on a number of projects centered around European utilities. It was his experience working with utilities that made him want to know more about water resource management and conservation. His time in Germany also opened his eyes to the importance of environmental management. After seeing the care and effort put into the water sector in Germany, and in particular the stringent controls around water regulation, Kevin came to realise how different it was to his home in Malaysia. “In Malaysia, we don’t have the mindset of needing to save water. Eventually, we will be wasting water. And we also have leaks in piping everywhere because the water industry doesn’t care about fixing them, and this leads to big water losses.” Kevin hopes to use his experiences to help change the mindset of the people of Malaysia, to improve actions around water conservation. Ultimately, he hopes to use his skills and knowledge to change the way Malaysia and its people see water as a resource - a challenge he is eager to take on. Kevin Chun Tek Lim is a current Master of Integrated Water Management student at the International WaterCentre. About the author: Dahna Morrisson writes as a correspondent for the International WaterCentre, charged with exploring water challenges and the ways these challenges are managed around the world.
Water, sanitation and hygiene, or “WASH”, is central to human development and is linked with socio-economic improvement, environmental sustainability and good health outcomes. Water issues also exacerbate climate change and increase political instability and economic equality. According to the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, globally some 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services and 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services. In the world of international development, funding is a scarce resource. Getting the most amount of clean water and sanitation to the most amount of people is a critical mission. With many current financial solutions based in old-fashioned models of grants and aid money, alternative funding needs to be examined in order to achieve universal access to water and sanitation—which the World Bank estimated will cost $112 billion each year by 2030.
The International WaterCentre (IWC) will soon welcome more than 30 participants from across the Asia-Pacific region for the Asia-Australia Learning Week 2019, to discuss the role of decision support tools in water policy development, investment planning and the on-ground management of water resources. Learning Weeks are developed around specific themes and designed to stimulate dialogue and knowledge sharing between experts, policy makers, and practitioners, from both Australia and the broader Asia-Pacific region. The Asia-Australia Learning Week 2019 is funded by the Australian Water Partnership (AWP) and facilitated by the IWC, in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and delivery partners eWater and Alluvium. The Asia-Australia Learning Week 2019 is the third time the IWC has led a Learning Week. “The IWC has led the successful delivery of the 2016 and 2017 Learning Weeks,” says Pablo Orams, Senior Project Officer and Learning Week Project Manager at the IWC. “This experience, together with our strong relationships with the ADB, the AWP, various governments, and academic and industry organisations from across the Australian water sector, has allowed us to build a comprehensive training program for the 2019 edition of the Learning Week. We are excited to welcome a diverse group of participants and to share our experiences, as well as learning from theirs” This year’s participants include senior government and water utility representatives from various ADB Developing Member Countries (DMC) from across the Asia-Pacific region, as well as key ADB staff working in water resource-related projects with DMC representatives. Represented countries include the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Vanuatu, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Myanmar, Mongolia and China. Participants will visit Canberra and Melbourne, locations that offer unique opportunities to explore Australian working examples of decision support tools and systems at use in the water sector.
From the mountains to the sea, New Zealand’s estimated 4,200 catchments are battling challenges brought about by agricultural growth, deforestation, an increasing population, and urban development. Despite the common issues they face — contamination, nitrogen leaching, sediment run-off, and sewage overflow, among others — each catchment is different and needs a custom-built solution to restore its health, improve its quality, and ensure enough water supply for future generations. This tailored approach is the driving force behind the Greater Wellington Region’s whaitua committees. Instead of relying on a one-size-fits-all policy for the entire region, the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) decided on a more collaborative model. “It’s a mix of us wanting to do things more on a catchment scale and also to involve communities in decision-making,” says Alastair Smaill, program leader for urban water management at GWRC and the past program manager for whaitua committees. Deriving its name from the Māori word for designated area or space, a whaitua committee is tasked with recommending ways to improve and maintain the quality of freshwater in its catchment. The committee consists of representatives from the GWRC, the iwi (Māori word for tribe), the local council, and the local community. To develop a vision that’s unique to their catchment, committees need to understand how their communities use and value water, what their problems are, and how they want to solve these issues. “It’s about gathering an understanding of what community values are and then looking at decisions through that lens of community values,” Smaill says. The information gathered is then combined with scientific and economic data and presented to the community.