Individual water utilities as well as national water organisations play a crucial role in adjusting urban water management in Southeast European countries to the high quality standards in Western and Central Europe. They need to be encouraged to support institutional reforms and become familiar with best practice technologies and modern management strategies.
An important step towards this goal is the Danube Water Program (DWP), which was developed by the Austrian Federal Government in conjunction with the World Bank and is scheduled to continue until October 2015. The DWP’s access to the relevant countries is greatly enhanced through the involvement of the International Association of Waterworks in the Danube Catchment Area (IAWD), which has been facilitating the transfer of know-how into these countries and within this region for the past twenty years. DWP is financed with money from a multi-donor trust fund, from which it receives an initial amount of e 4.5 million. The countries invited to participate in the programme include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. Further countries in the region can participate, but are not directly eligible to apply for grants. Philip Weller, previously Executive Secretary of ICPDR throughout many years, serves as DWP Coordinator on behalf of IAWD.
aqua press: Mr. Weller, since our last interview you and your project team, which consists of David Michaud, three other World Bank employees and IAWD expert Ruy Frank, have moved into the World Bank’s office in Vienna and started your DWP activities. What have your achievements been to date?
Weller: The first step was to intensify our contacts with the associations, because they play an important role as know-how disseminators. This is why we are currently trying to enter into talks with the Austrian water associations ÖVGW and ÖWAV, both of which could provide a great deal of know-how. Such interest groups would also be a huge support in our current work focus on utility efficiency (including benchmarking). The tariffs structure will also be an issue.
Parallel to this, we have already begun searching for further financing partners, where our intention is to build synergies. A fine example is the German funding institute KfW. They have already completed an asset management project within the region, which was focused on software development. We want to draw our attention to strategic GIS-based asset management, in line with the International Water Association’s approach. There are also plans to establish a database of performance indicators to assist utilities and decisionmakers at regional level. At present, we are preparing for the first asset management seminars, to which initially ten to fifteen utilities are invited. The skills acquired in these seminars shall help them to penetrate into new business areas in their environment.
The most important financing mechanism for all acti-vities is the recently launched Competitive Grant Program worth over one million euros. These funds are also eligible for sub-projects aimed at utility efficiency enhancement, such as fighting water losses. Each submitted project may claim up to e 75,000 in funding.
aqua press: Unlike Austria, many regions in Southeast Europe put a great deal of energy into their water supply and wastewater disposal systems, which ultimately impacts the commercial success of their companies. Is the Danube Water Program also going to address this challenge?
Weller: Absolutely! But it will be a complex task, not only involving the transfer of know-how and the development of energy efficiency plans, but also medium-term changes in energy policies, which need to be aligned with the targets of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive. The DWP will retain special consultants to assist with this task. Energy efficiency plans are also eligible for funds under the Competitive Grant Program.
aqua press: How does the DWP select the associations and water utilities that receive support?
Weller: There are two basic selection procedures. One relates to the three key factors of DWP: utility efficiency, asset management and energy efficiency. The first call for the Competitive Grant Program was sent out in October, the second call is expected around the turn of the year. The second selection procedure is about new subprojects submitted by regional participants. An IAWD expert jury will choose the projects based on a specific criteria catalogue.
Participation in the Danube Water Program is, of course, voluntary. But I am convinced that water associations and utilities will benefit in many ways!
Additional information can be found on the DWP website www.danube-water-program.org
Even though specific calls for tender related to technologies or services are based on the World Bank’s stringent and objective criteria, I expect that there will also be opportunities for DWP participants from Western, Northern and Central Europe. One thing is certain: the DWP will propagate the European concept of urban water management. This implies in particular that employees receive excellent training which puts them in a position to perform most of the work independently. We also pursue the bottom up approach.
aqua press: Thank you for this interview!