AquaRating system: supporting improvements in WASH utility performance and service delivery
In July 2019, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) recruited the technical services of SNV to carry out the first-ever application of the AquaRating system in a water company in Honduras. SNV’s engagement with AquaRating concluded successfully and has yielded promising changes in the future service delivery of the water company.
Sustainable Development Goal 6 aims to achieve universal and equitable access to drinking water and adequate sanitation and hygiene services, as well as to improve water quality. The level of ambition of the SDGs poses great challenges to the WASH sector – but necessary ones. The success in meeting this level of ambition rests on the capacity and capability of the entire sector to work together, concertedly, to ensure that the human right to water and sanitation is a right enjoyed by everybody.
In Honduras, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), SNV in Honduras and Empresa Aguas de Puerto Cortes (a water company) teamed up in July 2019 to pilot the application of AquaRating system – an international standard of performance measurement for water and sanitation companies. The seven-month evaluation was carried out by SNV. Weeks after the conclusion of the evaluation, Empresa Aguas de Puerto Cortes took quick action to effect some changes needed to improve their service and make the company’s delivery more efficient.
What is AquaRating?
AquaRating is an international standard of measurement that examines the management of and the quality of services delivered by companies that operate in the water and sanitation industry. Developed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in collaboration with the International Water Association (IWA), AquaRating ‘offers a comprehensive, impartial and credible evaluation of utilities’ performance.’ In the case of Honduras, SNV’s application of AquaRating provided the utility company with data that:
identified current strengths and bottlenecks in its water and sanitation service value chain,
encouraged innovation, learning and a rethink of its management and service arrangements, and
prompted practical changes within its service value chain and management arrangements to provide a better service to consumers.
What specific actions were taken by the utility to improve its services?
Utility engagement with the AquaRating system gave Empressa Aguas de Puerto Cortes insights into its performance and suggested steps to take to deliver a quality service in today’s times.
Having had gained awareness on the importance of digitising its internal management and service delivery processes, the utility has mapped out the process of transitioning to full automation; i.e., goals have been set and work improvement plans have been drawn up for the short-, mid- and long-term. Budgets and potential financing streams to facilitate the realisation of these plans are already being explored. Equally as important, the utility now has access to internationally recognised performance and service delivery standards/indicators, ‘good practice’ material for replication or adaptation, and the know-how to objectively evaluate the company’s management of their drinking water and sanitation services. One example is the utility company’s development of a plan to redress water loss.
Said Ana Gabriela Castejon Hernández, AquaRating Process Coordinator, We learned to objectively evaluate the provision of drinking water and sanitation services through indicators and good practices at the international level. With this, we were able to create a baseline and identify opportunities for improvement. One key success that emerged from this process is a strong commitment by the entire group to continue collaborating with SNV as interlocutor with the AquaRating team.
SNV is committed to continue its collaboration with the utility company and strengthen the utility’s partnership with relevant WASH stakeholders and actors. SNV has been working in Honduras since 1987. Since its founding, SNV has been engaged in evidence-based research, knowledge management and has been facilitating learning within and between countries – key activities integral in enabling the conditions for WASH innovation to flourish.
SNV’s experience in applying AquaRating and the utility’s positive response to the results of the seven-month study suggest that AquaRating standards-setting and measurements have great potential in effecting change in utility management/service delivery processes.
Said Patricia Solorzano, WASH Sector Leader in Honduras, In moving forward, the further evaluation and application of AquaRating in diverse companies are likely to offer the sector the evidence needed to create patterns for the system’s adaptation in different contexts.