Water Utility Improvement Program

Access to clean drinking water and safe disposal of wastewater are two of the major issues facing emerging economies across the Indo-Pacific with the urban water sector playing a key role to provide this essential service. The challenges facing urban water sectors across South East Asia share many similarities to those that the Australian urban water sector have face and managed through over 30 years of nationally coordinated water reform. Connecting water utilities from Australia and South East Asia to share knowledge and innovation to support improved water and wastewater services is a highly effective way for developing countries to strive towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6.

Between 2016 to 2020, the Australian Water Partnership (AWP) has supported the Australian Water Association (AWA) to facilitate the Water Utility Improvement Program (WUIP) that involves water utility twinning relationships between:

  • Five Vietnamese urban utilities and five Australian water utilities;
  • Three Indonesian water and wastewater utilities and three Australian water utilities; and
  • Three Vietnamese regional water utilities and three Australian regional / local council water utilities.

The successful WUIP model has subsequently been transferred to Cambodia under a separate program between four Australian and Cambodian water utilities funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Cambodia.

Over the last four years mutually beneficial relationships were formed that resulted in improved capacity of 11 water utilities to deliver improved water and wastewater service delivery to over 15,000,000 customers across Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia. 

The WUIP has shown progress towards achievement of AWP impacts including improved water planning through transfer of water safety planning approaches; and enhanced performance and effectiveness of water utilities in a range of areas including asset management, non-revenue water, engineering design, human resource management, business strategy and Public-Private Partnerships and Gender Equality and Social Inclusion.

In response to COVID-19 in early 2020, all activities transitioned to digital knowledge sharing platforms. Additional activities have been delivered to share knowledge on best practice COVID-19 response and recovery approaches for water operators and to support the transfer of methods to detect COVID-19 in wastewater.

Whilst the WUIP is not commercially geared, there has been commercial opportunities emerge for Australian companies including for design engineers, laboratory analysis companies, technology providers and academic institutions. Profiling WUIP outcomes at workshops at Ozwater, Vietwater, Cambodia Water and Indonesia Water provide a key platform for sharing the knowledge across the wider water sectors of participating countries and introducing Australian technology innovations to support the program.