AquaRating: transforming the water and sanitation sector

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By Corinne Cathala*

For all of us who have been working in water for the last 15 years or more, 2015 was year 1, the target year for the Millennium Development Goals. For many countries, the data showed great progress: from 1990 to 2012, 2.3 billion people gained access to improved water sources and almost 2 billion to improved sanitation.

However, there is no room for complacency–today more than 700 million people, still use unimproved drinking water sources; and some 2.5 billion people unimproved sanitation facilities. The numbers are much worse among the most vulnerable segments of society and in the most remote areas of our world.

The Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the 70th UN General Assembly, specifically Goal No. 6, seeks to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by the year 2030 which means governments should work not just on ensuring service quality. They must also reduce wastewater pollution, strengthen water governance, boost efficiency in the use of water resources, and protect our liquid natural capital.

AquaRating is an international standard that enables water and sanitation operators to focus on the quality of the service they are providing. As a standard, AquaRating sets the baseline for utilities to monitor their performance and plan for improvements. Jointly developed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the International Water Association (IWA), AquaRating offers a comprehensive, impartial and credible evaluation of the utilities’ performance and best management practices, based on three dimensions: (i) performance indicators; (ii) best practices; and (iii) reliability of information.

The AquaRating system gives a detailed evaluation of 112 elements across eight key areas and validates information through an independent auditing process, enhancing accountability and transparency. The evaluation system has been tested in 13 utilities in 2014 in nine countries in Europe and Latin America and is currently being implemented through individual operators in Ecuador, El Salvador, Argentina and Spain and through government and financial institutions in Peru, Colombia and Mexico, Sierra Leone and Fiji. AquaRating makes a significant contribution to improving utility performance and a roadmap to anticipate future challenges, bringing us a step forward meeting the Water 2030 agenda. The rating system allows for better planning and decision making processes for the utilities’ management to achieve sustainable and efficient outcomes.

*Corinne Cathala is currently a Lead Water and Sanitation Specialist in the Water and Sanitation division of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).