The George Washington University
Engineering Management & Systems Engineering Department (EMSE)
Environmental & Energy Management Program (E&EM)

Spring 2002 (Volume 3, Number 1)


GW Joins Public-Private Partnership Study in the Water Supply and Sanitation Sector

The E&EM Program of GW has recently been involved in joining a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) study. This study will be a joint effort between GW (U.S.A.), the University of Dundee (UK) and the Academie de l'Eau (France). The objective is to provide an in-depth and objective review of the worldwide PPPs in providing water supply and sanitation services in the past 10 years. The details of the successes and also the failures of the PPP process will be analyzed. The first round of results will be presented at the 3rd World Water Forum, which is to take place in Kyoto, Japan in March 2003. Following the forum, the second phase of the research will be initiated, in which detailed case studies related to the subject matter would be performed in a period of up to two years. Currently, it is planned for GW to be the coordinator of the three partners. In the initial phase, it is anticipated that each partner would manage the functions in their own country, including financing to cover the costs of the study.

Today, water supply and sanitation issues throughout the world are facing many challenges. The following facts give an understanding of the extent of the significance of the matter*:
-- 1.1 billion people do not have an adequate supply of water;
-- 2.4 billion people do not have adequate sanitation facilities;
-- 3 million children die from waterborne diseases each year;
-- Half of the population of the world lives on less than $2/day, therefore limiting their ability to pay for basic water supply and sanitation services.

Dealing with these challenges requires both public and private sector involvement. The public sector (government) is essential in determining policies, financing, ensuring accountability, and providing incentives. On the other hand, the private sector plays a significant role by providing the provision of water and sanitation services. Currently, only 5% (according to the World Bank) and 10% (according to the Pacific Institute) of the world population is served by public-private partnerships.

The subject of PPPs is currently increasing in importance as debates continue on its advantages/disadvantages, with some supporting it, while others are opposing. There have been examples of successful private sector services in developing countries. Moreover, the development in the private sector has motivated greater accountability and improved performance in the public sector. However, there is still concern that privatization may aggravate economic inequities and have adverse effects on water quality by ignoring the impacts on ecosystems and missing out on opportunities for efficient water use and conservation.

The partnership between GW, the University of Dundee and the Academie de l'Eau is anticipated to provide a comprehensive and objective review and analysis of the situation.

* Saghir (2002); Water and Sanitation Business Strategy Development; paper presented on May 6, 2002 at the World Bank Water Forum.

Jonathan P. Deason, Ph.D., Lead Professor