Multi-sectoral strategic planning in the water supply sector

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Strategic planning is applied through the development of water supply studies for partner municipalities, as a tool to access international funds and to ensure proper implementation of priority infrastructure projects. Due to lack of basic strategic documentation relevant to the water supply sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on one side, and great financial demands for investments in the sector on other side, the programme developed a systematic approach to tackle these issues. As a result, water supply to users in the area of partner municipalities will be secured in accordance with high quality technical and sanitary standards and efficient and effective water system management.

Challenge or Opportunity Addressed and Short Background

During the selection process of partner municipalities, the programme expert team identified that the majority of BiH municipalities lacked basic strategic documentation, necessary to meet great financial needs in the water supply sector. At the same time neither of the applicant municipalities had secured funds in the municipal budget to respond to these needs via traditional ways of financing (financing from municipal budget and higher level of governance). Therefore, it was obvious that assistance of international funds and credit institutions would be necessary in order to tackle the issue within a reasonable time period.

The objective of this component was to engage all relevant local stakeholders in order to deliver a water supply study in the selected municipalities. More specifically, the aim of the strategic planning is to:

  • provide all users within the municipality with water of specified quality through a system managed and controlled by a responsible company/institution;
  • plan by project solution upgrades of water supply systems which will result in long term economical and efficient system management;
  • analyze potentials, and determine quantities of water required for water supply, as well as reserve and protect for long term all water sources of interest for water supply;
  • propose and define in the conceptualization stage optimal technical solution of treatment of raw source water; and
  • analyze possibilities of distributions/sale of drinking water to neighboring municipalities.

This systematic approach considers the development of the following documents: An inception report including current analysis, a water supply master plan for the planning period of 20 years, a prioritized plan of investment measures for 10 years period, and a feasibility study for priority investment measures. These documents are necessary to submit an application to international funds and credit institutions. The final objective is to implement priority projects in partner municipalities selected from the prioritized plans of investment measures. The selection of projects is performed by the municipal management boards established as multi-sectoral bodies in each partner municipality regardless of their size and level of development. They generally represent the following sectors: education, social protection, health, non-governmental sector, water utility company, municipality, and representative of the vulnerable (socially excluded) group(s).

Strategy or Approach Chosen

The first step in the implementation of the strategy is a comprehensive assessment performed within the municipalities and the associated water utility companies. The assessment includes an overview of existing strategic-planning documents (development strategy, spatial and urban plan, studies, projects and lawyers) which will be aligned to the water supply study, an overview of applicable laws, regulations, technical standards and norms related or connected to the water supply studies, and an overview of the European Union directives, standards, regulations and good practices of the water supply sector. In addition, the current condition of water supply within the municipality is assessed in details (demographic data, overview of all water sources, description of the water system, general information regarding the water utility company, data for unaccounted water and the most significant problems related to operation of the water supply system).

Within the water supply master plan for the municipality the following mandatory elements will be covered: demographic evaluation and development needs, required quantities of drinking water, drinking water quality testing at strategic sources, conceptual solutions meeting the overall general goal, including cost assessment, macro-available assessment and investment capabilities of the population, the local community, the municipality and the water utility company to invest into the water supply system and long term development plan for the whole planning period with the list of investment measures. The following step in implementation strategy is to implement priority projects selected by multi-sectoral municipal management boards. The prioritized projects will be assessed against the socio-economic analysis and referral model document of social inclusion and protection.

Results and Impacts

Upon capacity assessment of partner municipalities and their associated water utility companies, the MDG-F DEG expert team has elaborated individual findings based on the above listed analysis. These findings clearly indicated that financial and technical management applied in some water utility companies could be considered as well developed. As a result, MDG-F DEG identified these companies as coaches to be used in peer-to-peer sessions and monitoring of implementation of prioritized projects. At the same time, during development of project assignments for water supply studies it was identified that a few partner municipalities’ possessed relevant strategic documentation which enabled MDG-F DEG to support implementation of pilot infrastructure projects. These projects were funded from mutual fund for capital investments which the programme created in each partner municipality.

Insights and Continuation

  • It is very important to invest all efforts into the capacity development of water utility companies, in order to empower them to become capable and responsible for all actual implementation of all priority investment measures. This will lead to significant savings in municipal budgets due to the fact that external construction contractors will not be necessary.
  • Additional lesson learned is the benefit of peer-to-peer exchange that eliminated needs for engagement of external consultants and additional experts in the water supply sector.
  • In both cases these measures will increase the financial means of the water utility companies and enable them to fully resume responsibility of the service delivery to their beneficiaries.

Natural next step in strategy implementation is to support the water utility company and municipality with regard to writing proposals for loans and grants needed to finance prioritized plans for investment measures developed within the water supply study. Long term sustainability is ensured through the municipal management boards which will become a permanent body and monitor the strategy implementation for the next 20 years period. Additional mechanism to ensure continuity of the activities is the cooperation established among the water utility companies participating in MDG-F DEG.

Potential for Replication and Scale up

The multi-secotral approach in strategic planning of the water supply sector is approving to be a tool to mobilize and engage the entire community in participative municipal governance of water access. The MDG-F DEG experience should be used as a successful model in the remaining BiH local communities with great potential to replicate the model regionally and globally. The only preconditions are that local communities do not possess relevant strategic documentation for the water supply sector and that they cannot meet their financial needs in the sector.

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