The key WASH services that you learned about in Section 3.2 are largely public services, paid for by the communities and administered by local government. In this section, you will learn how the provision of these services is organised and managed.
Water supply utilities
Water supply services are managed by organisations called utilities. Water utilities take overall responsibility for operating, maintaining and managing the water supply system. Utilities collect money from users based on the amount of water used. They use this to cover the costs of supplying the water including staff costs, office running costs and reserve capital for maintenance works.
Water supply and sewerage utilities
Water supply and sewerage services are often managed by a single utility. Utilities for sewerage services are organised in a very similar way to water supply utilities. Slightly different modalities are used to recover regular costs, for example for sewerage services the payment is included in the fee for water supply. This addition can include fixed fees that all users pay and fees as a percentage of the consumed water. This is fair because the volume of sewage produced by a household or other user will be proportional to the volume of water used. For septic tank emptying services, utilities usually charge their customers a fixed amount per service.
Solid waste management services
Municipal authorities of towns and cities often provide solid waste management services, from collection to transport and final disposal. In recent years, departments with responsibility for ‘town greening and beautification’ have been created in municipalities of some towns and cities. Their main role is to ensure that unsightly spots in the town are well maintained and that the urban environment is attractive for the community. As part of their routine tasks, they may provide waste collection, transport and disposal services for households and institutions.
As you have read, micro- and small enterprises (MSEs) also play a significant role in solid waste management. It is common in many towns to see MSEs contracted by municipalities to provide solid waste management services.
Look back to Figure 3.1. It shows an example of a public–private partnership. Identify the public providers and the private providers in this example, and their common goal.
The municipality represents the public provider, and the MSE represents the private provider. Both are in partnership for the common goal of increased efficiency in solid waste management.
Private providers can usually offer a service that is better suited to communities, although this comes with a slightly higher cost than that of public providers. In view of the higher quality (reliability and continuity) of service, the slight addition in cost is generally considered acceptable. If correctly implemented, increasing public–private partnerships can help public service providers to focus on regulating services as well as ensuring the quality of service.
However, the role of the private sector has yet to grow large enough for the WASH sector to benefit. More companies that are both entrepreneurial and visionary are needed to strengthen the partnership with public providers. The lack of appropriate private providers contributes to the limited number of partnership arrangements in practice. In addition, WASH as a business is not generally very attractive to private entrepreneurs. Unlike luxury services and products, WASH services are basic and therefore only nominal charges can be applied. This directly affects the available profit margin and so makes it less attractive to business.
Name the providers for key WASH services in urban areas. For each service provider, describe the main focus of their services.
The main service providers are:
- water supply utilities, which serve urban communities by providing adequate clean water at affordable prices
- sewerage utilities, which serve to maintain the infrastructure for collection, transport and disposal of liquid waste from households and institutions
- MSEs – business organisations that work on waste collection and transport.
You might also have mentioned the town greening and beautification department, which is supposed to ensure that the urban environment is pleasant for the community, and town municipalities, which may provide waste collection, transport and disposal services to households and institutions.