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KYOTO (18 March 03) – A new report shows the tremendous benefits to be gained by supporting increased cooperation among public water utilities. The report, prepared by the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), examines the experience of public-public partnerships in North-East Europe in the past decade.

“There’s a great untapped resource among existing public water systems, many of which are models of efficiency, quality and accountability,” says report author David Hall of the PSIRU at the University of Greenwich in the UK. “What this report examines is the great gains to be made by twinning these success stories with other public authorities that need to improve their systems and upgrade their technical capacity.”

The study examines the experience of public-public partnerships (PUPs) between water utilities in the Baltic region, matching municipal water services in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia with public water authorities in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark.

“After the fall of the wall in 1989, there was an urgent need to modernize water services to better meet local needs and reduce pollution flows into the Baltic,” says Inga-Lena Wallin of the Swedish public sector union, Kommunal. “The Stockholm municipal water utility had a proven track record of innovation and quality and was able to offer the expertise needed to strengthen the water systems in other cities.”

An earlier report by the PSIRU demonstrated the potential benefits of PUPS in developing countries, examining the municipal water authority in Porto Alegre in Brazil.

“I firmly believe the best way to strengthen public water services in developing countries is to support exchanges and cooperation among public authorities,” says Carlos Todeschini, the general director of DMAE in Porto Alegre. “We are tackling day-to-day problems with exciting innovative approaches and we are rooted in our communities so we’re committed to building long-term sustainable solutions.”

While PUPs are cited by the Camdessus panel as an area to be expanded, most of the hype – and funding – continues to be targeted at joint ventures with the private sector that have been disastrous for many communities in the North and developing South.

“Our communities don’t want any part in the private sector operating our water systems,” says Lance Veotte of the South African Municipal Workers Union. “With the PUPs we’ve developed, we can access the expertise and experience we need to strengthen our public water systems without losing community control.”

The experience of PUPs will be discussed further at a special panel entitled Public Water – The Way Forward, being held as part of the World Water Forum.

“Rather than pouring money into private sector ventures, we should be building the capacity of the public water sector. And the best people to do that are other successful public sector water authorities,” says Raj Singh from the Fiji Public Service Association. “We have a huge untapped resource that we should use to all our benefit.”


The panel Public Water – The Way Forward will be held in Room 1003 in the Grand Cube, Osaka beginning at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday 19 March.

Copies of the PSIRU report “International Solidarity in Water: Public-Public Partnerships in North-East Europe” can be obtained in the Media Centre or from www.psiru.org.

For further information or to arrange interviews with PSI delegates:
Robert Fox – 090 5400 6576
David Hall – 090 5396 3566
David Boys – 090 5402 0433

Interviews can be arranged in English, Japanese, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Thai, Bulgarian, Tagalog, Sri Lankan and other languages.