Posted 11 August 2015

Australia and Vietnam sign a MoU for water

Vietnam is currently going through a crucial period of rural development and urbanisation, and accordingly the Vietnam Government has placed strong emphasis on the sound management of water and wastewater systems. Vietnam’s shift from a centrally planned to a market economy has transformed the country. In recent years, the nation has risen to be a leading agricultural exporter and an attractive foreign investment destination.

Enhanced public-private collaboration in Vietnam’s water sector is required more than ever. There is recognition that donor funding for water infrastructure will not be around forever, and significant pressure exists for increasing infrastructure needs and to reduce the widening of the infrastructure-funding gap.

Australia has much to offer in this regard, and in fact has invested substantially since re-establishing diplomatic ties in the 1970s (2014/15 DFAT Budget for Vietnam: $141.3 million). A strong and prosperous Vietnam, with a population of over 90 million, will play an increasingly important role in the region. But challenges do exist in developing a sustainable water sector in Vietnam.

Navigating the way ahead

Vietnam has made significant progress with increasing access to safe and secure water and wastewater management in the past 10 years – however, much remains to be done regarding consolidation of tariff reforms, development of public/private partnership arrangements, strategic planning, transparent and competent regulation, and water quality improvement. Further, the rise of sea levels and new extremes in drought and flood contribute additional challenges for the Vietnam water sector.

In support of the Vietnam Government’s objectives for overcoming these challenges, AWA and the Vietnam Water Supply and Sewerage Association (VWSA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Hanoi on 16 January 2015. The purpose of the MOU is to foster closer economic cooperation and assist the Vietnam water sector to navigate through new extremes in climate and the associated challenges in the provision of safe, secure, sustainable and efficient water management solutions. 

Vietnam MOU Signing

Australian Water Association Chief Executive, Jonathan McKeown, and Vice Chairman and General Secretary of tVWSA, Tran Quang Hung, signing the MoU

Strengthening Australia’s relationship with the Vietnamese water sector will provide many benefits to AWA members. Firstly, it will raise the profile of the Australian water sector’s skills and capabilities in Vietnam. Secondly, it will provide opportunities to individual and corporate members to gain valuable experience and new business opportunities in this fast-emerging market. Thirdly, it will raise the profile of Australian water expertise in the Australian Government’s drive for economic diplomacy across Asia. Finally, it will position the Vietnam/Australia branding as a leading exporter of water capabilities across the ASEAN region.

AWA Chief Executive, Jonathan McKeown, said at the signing ceremony: “Australia’s water sector has much to offer Vietnam to enable sustainable urban growth and economic productivity. Our collaboration will support the institutional strengthening necessary for improved performance of water and wastewater services, and support government objectives for transitioning towards a more market-orientated water sector.”

The Associations, with the support of Austrade and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, are now developing a program of pilot projects and twinning and exchange placements to support the Vietnam Government’s objectives in water. These are structured under the following three areas:

Strengthening financial and investment structures 
This component will build capacity of provincial governments and utilities to plan, regulate and price water and wastewater services efficiently and effectively. Activities will include:

  • Strengthening data and knowledge management of the water and wastewater network in Vietnam, and supporting the formulation of a national system of utility performance benchmarking;
  • Developing ‘Communities of Practice’ between Australian and Vietnamese water professionals to reduce leakages and achieve cost recovery pricing; 
  • Strengthening regulatory frameworks that enable public/private partnerships and private investment in Vietnam’s water services

Trade and business development
This will focus on facilitating Australian-Vietnam trade in water and wastewater products and clarifying pre-conditions for joint ventures between Australian and Vietnamese water companies. It will include exchange placements and targeted project work in the following areas:

  • Compilation and exchange of relevant information between AWA and VWSA to support two-way trade – for example, emerging technology, institutional structures, policy directions, regulatory approval steps, capital works projects and donor funding opportunities. 
  • A case study examining pre-conditions for joint ventures between Australian and Vietnamese water companies with an emphasis on including Australian water expertise in joint bids for Asian Development Bank and World Bank projects in Vietnam.


Improved service delivery and utility capacity
This component will include personnel exchanges and twinning arrangements between AWA members and VWSA members to 
build capacity in:

  • Technology transfer: A series of case studies and pilot projects to validate the performance of innovation water treatment products in select rural and urban water utilities in Vietnam. This will include a cost-benefit assessment of the technology and guidance on operation and maintenance of the technology. 
  • Implementation and regulation of risk management approaches contained within water quality safety plans for Vietnam utilities.
  • Strengthening the framework for certification of water treatment operators. 

Want to get involved?

If you or your organisation are interested in getting involved in the Australian Water Association program in Vietnam please contact Paul Smith, Export and Market Access Manager at or +61 2 9467 8403.