GWI strengthens Vietnam-Australia Water Utility Improvement Program
Water is a key concern and development priority for Vietnam, with the country aiming to provide safe drinking water to every one of its citizens by 2030, aligning with Sustainable Development Goal 6. This ambitious goal builds on Vietnam’s great strides—having already improved the provision of basic water services to their population—but noting that millions still lack adequate access, especially in rural populations.
GWI developed and led a a mid-term monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the the Australia-Vietnam Water Utility Improvement Program (WUIP), managed by the Australian Water Association (AWA) in collaboration with the Vietnam Water and Sewerage Association (VWSA) and funded by the Australian Water Partnership (AWP) through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The Program will assist the Vietnamese Water Sector in achieving their reform objectives as outlined below.
Australia and Vietnam share common challenges when it comes to achieving safe, secure, efficient and sustainable water management. By exploring these challenges with partners through a Water Utility Improvement Program (WUIP), also commonly known as Water Operator Partnerships or Twinning Programs, organisations can develop greater resilience and flexibility and support an innovative and collaborative culture.
With the Vietnamese water utilities technically robust and performing well on water quality and delivery, a key focus of the WUIP is to improve performance in the areas of asset management, minimising non-revenue water, and water safety plans.
The GWI team applied their extensive and complementary experiences across water management, international aid and development and program monitoring and evaluation to assess the efficacy of the program, and reported key findings and recommendations in March 2018 to enhance the program’s effectiveness and impact.
GWI directly engaged with the Australian Utility partners in face-to-face interviews at the VietWater’17 conference along with an online survey to directly capture the experiences and lessons learned. Overall, Australian Utility partners described their experience as highly rewarding for their organisations as well as individual staff, reporting that their involvement provided an opportunity to make a tangible difference. At the staff level, the WUIP increased job satisfaction and motivation, and presented new and unique cross-cultural learning and leadership opportunities.
The key findings and recommendations provided by GWI have already been considered and begun to be implemented by the AWA. The report also provided valuable empirical input to the broader M&E reporting to AWP and DFAT.
GWI recommendations covered effective monitoring and evaluation and targets/indicator development; gender equality and women’s empowerment; adaptive management; capacity building; suggestions for improvement based on successful programs implemented by the Asian Development Bank, the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance, and the World Bank; horizontal learning between the Australian partners concurrent with their bilateral partnerships; and the importance of intercultural training.
The synthesis of primary data-gathering efforts into a series of empirically-based findings and recommendations is what makes the GWI approach and output so beneficial to programs/project monitoring. While the report is not publicly available, recommendations covered both the implementation of the current Australia-Vietnam WUIP, as well as broader strategy and design considerations for effective program implementation in future.
The GWI team involved in this program included Dr Susanne Schmeidl (UNSW Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences), Dr Kim Spurway (UNSW Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences), Mr. Ming Chin (UNSW Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences), Dr. Andrew Dansie (CI, UNSW Global Water Institute), Prof. Greg Leslie (UNSW Global Water Institute).
UNSW GWI is very grateful to the Australian Water Association for providing access to the Australian Water Utility partners attending Vietwater’17 and for their support of this monitoring exercise. The Water Utility staff are gratefully thanked for their willing engagement and generous provision of time and information.