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Water Safety Planning: Linking Catchment Management with Water Supply Services

By Kizito Masinde, Programmes Officer, International Water Association

Water Safety Planning: Linking Catchment Management with Water Supply Services

The risk-based drinking-water quality management methods and procedures applied along the chain of water extraction, treatment, distribution and supply, known as water safety planning, is gradually becoming best practice in countries around the world. Water safety planning enables water service providers to play a significant role in achieving global development goals as well as the progressive realization of the human right to safe drinking water.

Though WSPs are hinged within water utilities, their successful implementation is based on enhanced collaboration with partners outside the utility including catchment authorities, consumers and health authorities. Catchment authorities play a significant role in ensuring that the quantities of raw water required by utilities are met in the desired quality. Failure to meet these two parameters affects the smooth operations of the utility as it fails to produce the desired quality of drinking water in the right amounts. Unfortunately, utilities have traditionally not been expected to play any roles in ensuring the integrity of the catchment. This is because most of their mandate begins at the abstraction point and ends at the meter. This arrangement creates challenge as utilities are left with little say on the raw water quality they receive. This has the potential to compromise drinking water supplies in cases where utilities do  not receive sufficient amounts of raw water, or receive raw water whose quality is too poor to be treated as per the specifications of the existing treatment plant. In other cases utilities are forced to endure financial constraints because of the high cost of treating poort quality raw water.

In recognition of these challenbges, IWA organised a session at the just concluded 18th African Water Association (AfWA) in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss the role of utilities in catchment management. The session sought to explore the risks introduced in drinking water production and supply when catchment authorities and utility management fail to collaborate. Among the presentations made was one by Eng. David Onyango, the Managing Director of Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company Limited (KIWASCO) in Kenya, and Mr. Francis Kere, the Head of Water Quality at Office National de l'Eau et de l'Assainissement (ONEA) in Burkina Faso. The utilities presented the risks they faced in the catchment and the measures they had put in place to mitigate the risks. They also expounded on the tools they had used to solve the challenges that required their collaboration with catchment managers. Eng. Joseph Kinyua, the Technical Co-ordination Manager at the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA), Kenya, was at hand to provide the catchment managers' perspective during the panel discussion that followed. Four key conclusions were reached during the session:

1. Activities within the catchment have a direct impact on raw water for utilities in terms of quality and quantity. Utilities therefore need to be able to keep an eye on such activities, and if possible, influence them with a view of protecting the source waters.

2. To ensure this, the traditional mandate that most utilities in the world have been bestowed needs to be re-examined and expanded where possible to enable them play a more significant role in catchment management. This could be through either utilities management their basins where this may allow, or through a legally backed collaboration with existing catchment authorities.

3. Water Safety Planning is a significant tool for collaboration as it provides an avenue where utilities are able to bring catchment authorities and other stakeholders on board to find solutions to risks affecting the quantity and quality of raw water resources available to the utility. The forum created enables the the discussion of issues of mutual concern and collaboration in finding and implementing control measures to risks that may be identified that require support from stakeholders who include cathcment authorities.

4. The successful use of WSPs in this regard requires the creation of an enabling environment for WSP development and implementation. In many countries in Africa, this enabling environment does not exist. The enabling environment is created through a favourable legal and policy framework.

For more information about the 18th AfWA International Congress & Exihibition which happened on 22-25 February, 2016 in Kenya, you can visit the following website: https://www.afwacongress2016.org