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Message from Network Coordinator

Over recent decades progress has been made in expanding water and sanitation services to the un-served. However, the sustainability of existing and new infrastructure to deliver these services can be seriously undermined due to a lack of effective and well-resourced operation and maintenance (O&M) in an enabling institutional framework. Lack of, or insufficient operation and maintenance of water supply and sanitation systems contribute to the vicious cycle of underperforming service providers operating in often perilous financial circumstances; this can ultimately lead to poor service delivery that compromises public health.  In this connection it is important to not only think in terms of the conventional water-borne infections; aging infrastructure in many low-income countries causes frequent leaks resulting in stagnant pools of relatively clean water in urban areas, which can turn in to prolific breeding sites for mosquito vectors of malaria.

Advocating the importance of essential O&M activities for water and wastewater systems to key stakeholders and supporting their implementation within an enabling policy framework and through an efficient institutional structure goes a long way to ensuring the sustainability of water and wastewater services. The benefits of improving operation and maintenance of water and wastewater systems include reducing operating costs (OPEX), increasing revenue streams and improving the ability to consolidate and expand service delivery. However, there are a variety of institutional, financial and technical barriers to making these improvements. The bottom line is that in the planning of water and sanitation systems and services, economic evaluations may show a poor rate of return and it is then easiest to delete or externalize the O&M component.

Internationally recognized planning and management approaches such as Strategic Asset Management (SAM), Water Safety Planning (WSPs) and Sanitation Safety Plans (SSPs) inherently support and promote good O&M practices of water or wastewater systems.

All three of these approaches are gaining greater prominence and increasing applicability in low- and middle-income countries and offer an ideal context to promote good O&M.

 

Masaki Sagehasi, Coordinator of Operation and Maintenance Network
National Institute of Public Health, Japan

 

 












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