Towards sustainable water services in La Paz, Bolivia
Updated - Thursday 07 March 2013
Woman in Chuquiaguillo siphoning water from tank to fill jerry cans. Photo: Erma Uytewaal, IRC
A Dutch-funded project aims to bring piped drinking water to peri-urban neighbourhoods of the Bolivian capital La Paz. What will determine its success? Is it the inhabitants’ willingness and ability to pay for improved water services? No, the biggest threat to the sustainability of the project is the lack of a national sector strategy that clearly outlines how to finance the full costs of service delivery.
At present, the 125,000 inhabitants of the Chuquiaguillo sub-district have to rely on a network of plastic/flexible tubes providing untreated water through public taps. Or they get water from water tankers and unprotected springs.
"Network of plastic/flexible tubes providing untreated water" in Chuquiaguillo. Photo: Erma Uytewaal, IRC
The Chuquiaguillo Water Supply Service Improvement and Extension Project will connect 25,000 homes to a new water supply system by 2015. The system consists of a water treatment plant and 50 km of distribution pipes. The project wants to ensure that services are sustained long after the infrastructure is in place. The IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre contributed to this aim by supporting consultants Royal HaskoningDHV to carry out a socio-economic feasibility study of the Chuquiaguillo project. The study examined the pro-poor impact of the project and the ability and willingness of the poor to pay for the services.
Royal HaskoningDHV and water operator Vitens Evides International (VEI) are advising Bolivia’s state-run water utility EPSAS to implement the Chuquiaguillo project. It faces several technical and environmental challenges due to the difference in altitude between the water reservoir and the service area, and climate change (for more details see the NL Agency website). The project is being financed by the Facility for Infrastructure Development (ORIO), a grant scheme operated by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Critical for the project’s sustainability is a national sector strategy that clearly outlines how to finance the full costs of service delivery. As it stands now, tariffs only cover direct operations and some maintenance costs. In line with the present government's pro-poor policy, service providers apply a solidarity tariff for the first 10 cubic metres of water. However, it is unclear how the solidarity tariff will be subsidised. This needs to be clarified in a sector financing strategy, which also promotes a life-cycle costs approach (LCCA) in which all costs for capital expenditure, capital maintenance, and direct and indirect support are covered.
The social action plan, to be implemented by EPSAS, will also contribute to the sustainability of the project. Enhanced transparency and accountability are important elements of the plan. This refers to performance indicators on service levels provided, cost recovery, investments, customer satisfaction, and operation and maintenance (O&M).
For more information contact Erma Uytewaal
For more on IRC’s activities in Latin America go to: www.irc.nl/page/36926
For more on the Life-cycle costs approach go to: www.washcost.info
For more on sustainable service delivery go to: www.waterservicesthatlast.org
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