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Regional consultancy project with water utilities coming to an end

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With the nearing end of the consultancy project “Institutional and Organisational Strengthening of WASCO and Regional Water Utilities”, an important chapter in the German development cooperation in the Eastern Caribbean comes to a closure.

While this current project started in November 2019, the collaboration between WASCO and the CATS programme reaches back several years: a first one-year consultancy project was initiated as part of the first phase of the CATS programme in late 2014, addressing “Water Loss Reduction and Energy Efficiency”.

Based on experiences made during the first project, the CATS programme, now in its second implementation phase, started developing a follow-up programme together with WASCO in late 2017. The focus of the new project is on institutional aspects, administrative and technical processes, standards, workflows, roles and responsibilities, while the previous project was focusing on technical capacity building.

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Even though technical capacities were also further strengthened, the focus was on improving the collaboration between the various units and departments within WASCO. The goal was to significantly reduce the often still prevailing silo thinking within the utility and the therewith induced lack of internal communication and exchange of much needed information. These efforts intended to ultimately assist and strengthen WASCO in its efforts to reduce the high levels of Non-Revenue Water, leading to a higher service quality for its customers and better constitution of the organisation in general.

The CATS programme and WASCO therefore developed a consultancy project with more than 400 days of expert input over the period of 13 months, from November 2018 to November 2019. This input was predominantly provided through a total of 15 in-country missions to Saint Lucia, where key experts in four defined thematical areas - Institutional Strengthening, Network Management, Hydraulic Modelling, GIS and Asset Management - worked closely together with WASCOs staff. In hands-on activities and on-the-job trainings, the experts shared insights and jointly developed numerous tools and deliverables to assist WASCO. The consultancy was conducted by the German joint venture of Consulaqua GmbH, Hamburg and Como Consult, Hamburg.

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While this amount of input clearly required a lot of additional time from WASCOs staff on top of their daily duties, the team of consultants and the CATS programme recognised a great determination and commitment amongst most staff to contribute. From the onset, the consultants involved as many persons as possible from across all departments in order to produce outcomes that are beneficial to the organisation as a whole. Ultimately, this consultancy aimed at creating more efficient and effective means of operation within WASCO to transition from a current “firefighting” mode of operation to a planned, structured and preventative operation. It has proven to be a great advantage that Consulaqua had also conducted the previous consultancy project in 2014/2015, as several of the consultants involved were able to build on their previous experiences and knew what challenges WASCO was and is facing.

While WASCO was the key beneficiary of the project, the issue of Non-Revenue Water is clearly not a problem for WASCO alone. Most water utilities in the Caribbean suffer from inadequate infrastructure, vulnerability to climatic effects and water theft, to name but a few. For this reason, the project partnered with the Caribbean Water and Sewerage Association (CAWASA) to involve regional water utilities during the lifespan of the project and beyond. On two occasions, utilities from the region were invited to week-long workshops addressing the issue of Non-Revenue Water from different perspectives. Utilities from a total of seven countries followed this invitation, namely: Belize, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, CATS intervention countries all together, as well as the British Virgin Islands.

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CAWASA itself also benefitted from the consultancy, as a proposal has been developed to establish a regional Centre of Excellence for Water Utilities within the framework of the association, aiming to simplify and professionalise access to knowledge and capacity building in the region. It is now up to CAWASA to further develop the CoE together with the water utilities. The overly positive feedback from the utilities after the two regional workshops show that there is a high potential and willingness for such developments.

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In moving forward and looking into the future, it’s now the task of WASCO and the regional water utilities to incorporate the tools, suggestions, guidelines and methods developed into their daily operations. WASCO has developed a five-year Strategic Plan (2019 – 2023), which declares the reduction of Non-Revenue Water as number-one-objective. The subsequently developed Non-Revenue Water Reduction Strategy provides the guidance for WASCO to significantly reduce its water losses, improve service quality, and increase the resilience against the effects of climate change.

In the latest episode of CAWASAs H2Operator Podcast, WASCOs project coordinator Mandille Alcee, the consultant's team coordinator Jan Willem Overbeek and GIZs project manager Timo Schirmer share their insights and conclusions after one year of project implementation.

The CATS programme expresses its gratitude and satisfaction over the collaboration with WASCO, CAWASA, the regional water utilities and the team of consultants over the last 13 months and encourages all stakeholders to strive to further improve their operations. There is a lot of confidence and trust that the tools developed and ideas sparked during the last 13 months will be of great assistance for the utilities to achieve the set goals. Every drop of water that is not lost counts.

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