Stand-alone unit or mainstreamed responsibility: how can water utilities serve low-income communities?

Abstract

Urban utilities throughout the developing world face the challenge of extending services to low-income communities (LICs). This paper draws on current best practice to explore a question that is core to addressing this challenge: how can utilities effectively structure their organisation to extend services to LICs?

The paper builds upon discussions held at the 2013 WSUP Masterclass in Kampala, which brought together pro-poor specialists and top management from utilities throughout Africa, and also from Manila Water - a utility that has implemented a well-known and successful approach to serving LICs. It was clear from these discussions that identifying the appropriate organisational structure for any given utility is central to solving the problem. The paper contrasts three options available to utilities in determining how to structure their organisation towards serving these communities: (i) the use of a dedicated, stand-alone LIC unit with an operational function; (ii) the use of a dedicated, stand-alone LIC unit with an advisory function, and (iii) a ‘mainstreaming’ approach in which responsibilities for serving LICs are distributed throughout the utility’s operational units. Using data gathered through a consultative exercise with utility staff, local experts and WSUP staff, and drawing upon case studies of ten utilities currently delivering water and/or sanitation services, the paper considers the pros, the cons and the context-dependencies of the three approaches.

Citation

Peal, A.; Drabble, S. Stand-alone unit or mainstreamed responsibility: how can water utilities servelow-income communities? Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), London, UK (2015) 24 pp.

Stand-alone unit or mainstreamed responsibility: how can water utilities serve low-income communities?

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