Developing water and wastewater capacity in the Pacific Islands

Since May 2016, AWP has been supporting a major capacity development program for the Pacific Water and Wastewater Association (PWWA)—the peak association bringing together 31 water utilities across 21 Pacific Island countries to collaborate, exchange knowledge and work collectively.

The Pacific faces several challenges regarding its water resources, with almost all Pacific Island areas either at or close to sea level. This makes the Islands very vulnerable to climate change-related increases in natural disaster frequency and rising sea levels. In addition, an estimated 80 percent of Pacific Islanders are living in rural areas, and rural water management is of particular importance for agriculture, health and natural disaster management. Rapid population growth and increasing urbanisation are also exacerbating the challenges for water resource management in the Pacific Islands.

The PWWA is working on shaping a high performing and sustainable water and wastewater utilities sector in the Pacific, realising the importance of a coordinated approach to address issues affecting the sector. Through the PWWA Funding Support Program, Australian Partner Hunter H2O is delivering valuable program management and facilitation services to PWWA, enabling them to become better equipped to address the Pacific Islands’ complex water challenges.

From 2019-2022, Hunter H2O has supported the PWWA Secretariat to drive its strategy forward and become financially sustainable. The PWWA has transformed from a volunteer-based association to a professionally staffed body with a full-time secretariat team and established a five-year strategic plan that provides a roadmap to financial self-sustainability. Ongoing capacity development has also been provided to PWWA members, with Hunter H2O partnering with the International WaterCentre in 2018 to deliver a ‘Learning and Development Needs Analysis’ to assess the human resources needs of member utilities and form the basis for training schemes that have enriched members’ skills.

Developing the professional and technical capacity of Pacific Young Water Professionals (YWP), has also been a priority. The 2020 Pacific Water Conference, which was originally planned as the setting for a three-day YWP networking and learning event, was cancelled due to COVID-19. However, Hunter H2O developed and implemented a new, online approach to course delivery which commenced in March 2021, with ten virtual sessions held across a four-month period. Phase one of the YWP course introduced participants to each other and covered some fundamental skills that could be applied throughout their careers, and phase two consisted of five sessions related to collaboration and problem solving.

PWWA also recognises the critical importance of maintaining water supplies in the Pacific as a strategy to prevent transmission of COVID-19. In June 2020, they sought additional support to provide effective and increased access to technical advice, knowledge and tools for PWWA members to assist in their preparedness, response and recovery from COVID-19. In July 2020, a survey was distributed to all PWWA members to identify key COVID-19 issues and areas of support required. The survey also sought information regarding preferred social media platforms to establish the best methods for ongoing engagement. As a result of the survey, two website plugins were deployed in October 2020 to aid communications between the Secretariat and utility CEOs and enable better file management and sharing through the PWWA website.

Hunter H2O continues to support the staff of the PWWA Secretariat to improve its processes and systems and assist with program implementation, supporting the PWWA vision of shaping a high performing and sustainable water and wastewater utilities sector in the Pacific for collective action.

Feature image: PWWA members and partners conducting a site visit together (Credit: Daniel Alexander / Hunter H2O)
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