Reforms, plugging leaks could get water to millions in India, Asia: ADB

by Harsha Yadav

Source: indiawaterreview

Millions of people in Asia and the Pacific could gain access to clean water if leaks were plugged and water utility reforms adopted, a new study by the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) has stated.

ADB estimates that 29 billion cubic meters of water is lost each year in the region – enough to fill more than 11 million Olympic-sized swimming pools – causing Asia’s water utilities to lose more than $9 billion in revenue each year.

The study, ‘Good Practices in Urban Water Management’ was launched on July 3 during the ongoing Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) in the island-state, which has been cited as one of the models for water management which other Asian cities can learn from.

The study has been released at a time when many parts of Asia and the Pacific region are in a water crisis. Though in Asia, the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water between 1990 and 2015, was largely met in 2010, five years ahead of schedule, several challanges still remain.

There is still a huge population of the unserved, to whom delivering water and sanitation services is expected to pose a challenge. At the same time, with rapid urbanisation being witnessed across Asia, delivery of sustainable water supply and sanitation services in growing towns and cities will also remain an issue.

Said ADB’s Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Bindu Lohani, “While Asia and the Pacific is increasingly facing a major water crisis, we see unacceptable levels of water being lost through leaks and inefficiencies. By cutting the amount of lost water in half, 150 million people could be supplied with treated water”.

By examining eight of the best-performing water utilities in Asia, the study concludes that a low rate of unaccounted for water (UFW) is critical for efficient service delivery.

While current UFW levels in the region are as high as 60 per cent, an UFW level of less than 20 per cent is a realizable goal. In fact, it notes that Phnom Penh managed to bring its lost water rate down to just six per cent in 2008.

The study identifies seven universal themes to serve as a model for replication by water utilities: corporatization for better accountability; economic sustainability; unaccounted-for-water reduction; holistic approach to manage water resources including water supply and wastewater management; staff productivity; collaborative engagement amongst government, utilities and society; and inclusive approach to addressing the needs of the urban poor.

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