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Debate flowed freely at the African Utility Week 2018 dedicated water sessions, covering topics on resource management and all-important lessons and best practices on dealing with drought-stricken communities.

Responding adequately to the ever increasing demand necessitates immediate investment in water solutions, needed by the public and private sector to enable universal access, water security and resilient societies. This year, African Utility Week’s water track agenda focused on achieving water security in light of climate change, as well as how partnerships, financial models and the latest technological advances can make the greatest impact in meeting Africa’s water needs.

Opening the agenda with an overview of the key trends and overall project pipelines within Africa’s water landscape, guest research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Paul Yillia, served as an overarching voice for the needs of various stakeholders regarding improving their environmental footprint, extending their services, and addressing the negative press around South Africa’s Western Cape water crisis.

Attendees were treated to the latest report on the performance of water utilities in Africa, presented by global lead for water supply and sanitation at the World Bank, Alexander Bakalian.  His message centred on the challenge many service providers have in meeting UN Sustainable Development Goals and the need for utilities to leapfrog to well-performing, smart utilities.

Another popular session on the water track agenda was a report on the relief initiatives for the Western Cape’s water crisis, led by the For the Love of Water (F.L.O.W.) founder and Biomimicry Institute advisor, Justin Friedman. Presentations elaborated on the history of the drought, the interventions implemented to date, further planned interventions, as well as future outlook.

Various key experts provided their views on how far Cape Town has come towards alleviating the pressures of meeting the current water demand in light of the drought. An example on one of these views was a presentation made by Australian-based CEO of SIS.bio, Dave Shackleton, who provided his thoughts on strategic imperatives that South Africa and Africa need to address if they are to ensure sustainable effective water resource management in the future.

Other highlights included the need for cultural behaviour shift in order to reduce water consumption, especially in larger corporate and commercial settings. Change management strategies included the importance of effective communication plans to all stakeholders, encouraging accountability, as well as managing consumption by the city and its end-users.

Strategies on the latest technological advances impacting water supply and demand specifically focused on reducing leaks and non-revenue water as a whole. Presentations included the impact of technology on a utility company in transition and strategic case studies helped delegates understand the practical aspects of the prepaid water business.

A high-level panel discussion regarding solutions to reduce distribution losses, increase effective resource management, and the available technologies to boost water loss recovery took delegates down a cost-recovery path. The sessions concluded with information around sound financial models and the investment solutions needed within the public and private sectors to maximise sector impact. Roundtable sessions led by water utility CEOs focused on furthering ways to connect the industry by eradicating silos. The regional focus included latest innovations, projects and investment opportunities from South Africa, Malawi, Denmark, Liberia and Monrovia.

Africa’s water professionals and stakeholders took the opportunity to share information on topics including: avoiding ‘day zero’, managing aging infrastructure, effective maintenance strategies, how to ensure universal access to water, as well as the status of several projects. Concluding the sessions, industry experts debated issues around pricing methods for the continent’s water and their implications for the affordability of water services. ESI