Water association partnerships accelerate shift to climate smart and resilient water sectors in the Asia-Pacific

The article was originally published on the Australian Water Association’s website in  November 2023.

The Partnerships for a Resilient and Climate Smart Water Sector Program recognises the urgent need for collective action to mitigate the impacts of climate change on water resources, infrastructure, and vulnerable communities.

Through partnerships between the Australian Water Association (AWA) and peak water associations and their members in Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Pacific, the Program supports achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) – clean water and sanitation for all.  The Program also supports partners to achieve their gender, equity, disability, social inclusion (GEDSI), and climate action goals, contributing to SDGs 5 and 13 respectively. 

Designed and implemented by the AWA, the Program is funded by the Australian Government via the Australian Water Partnership (AWP). Through two-way knowledge exchange, the Program supports collaboration between the partners to accelerate progress towards climate resilience, adaptive water management, and sustainable development.   

Program Partnerships

Vietnam:  

  • Vietnam Water Supply and Sewerage Association (VWSA) and the AWA   
  • Hoa Binh Clean Water Company and Cassowary Coast Regional Council (Nth QLD)   
  • Can Tho Water Supply and Sewerage Company and Urban Utilities (SE QLD)    

Indonesia:  

  • PERPAMSI (Indonesian Water Supply Association) and AWA   
  • PT. Air Minum Giri Menang (Lombok) and TasWater (TAS)   
  • Tirta Musi Palembang City and Yarra Valley Water (VIC)   

The Pacific:  

  • The Pacific Water and Wastewater Association (PWWA) and AWA   
  • Tonga Water Board and Unitywater (SE QLD)   
  • Solomon Water and Goulburn Valley Water (VIC)  

Program Snapshot

Recently, key Program partner and Vietnam Water Supply and Sewerage Association (VWSA) Chairman Dr Nguyen Ngoc Diep (pictured at Ozwater’23 below), sat down to talk to AWA Project Lead Huy Van Tran about their work together. 

Ozwater Picture
AWA Board Director Louise Dudley with VWSA Chairman Dr Nguyen Ngoc Diep, VWSA Vice Chairwoman Ms Ha Thanh Hang, and AWA CEO Corinne Cheeseman at Ozwater’23 (L-R). 

“The Program provides a valuable opportunity for VWSA to collaborate and to learn from our partner – the Australian Water Association, at the association level.

Following discussions and careful planning, both associations have reached a consensus to focus on knowledge-sharing initiatives in priority areas. These areas include enhancing VWSA’s capabilities in member communications, through the development of a member database and communication system, as well as the creation of GEDSI (Gender Equality, Diversity, and Social Inclusion) programs, including initiatives such as “Women in Water” and the “Vietnam Young Water Professionals” networks.

Although these knowledge-sharing activities have recently commenced, we have already gleaned a wealth of knowledge, insights, and experiences from our partner, AWA. These learnings encompass running an effective business model, optimising member support, achieving business resilience, refining communication and knowledge exchange strategies, and advocating for a sustainable future in the water sector.

This shared knowledge has significantly enhanced our understanding of the appropriate business model for a water association. With the support of AWA, we are actively planning to restructure our own operational model to become more efficient and resilient. Our goal is to enhance VWSA’s capacity to provide improved services to our members, especially in the face of climate change. Additionally, we aim to better represent the Vietnamese water sector and contribute to a sustainable water future in Vietnam.

The collaboration and partnership between these water associations holds significant meaning and offers valuable support. It serves as a model that should be encouraged and replicated in other regions. By fostering collaborative relationships and promoting knowledge exchange, we can collectively work towards a sustainable global water future, enhancing the efforts of international water sectors.”
   – VWSA Chairman Dr Nguyen Ngoc Diep.

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Early in November 2023 representatives of AWA, VWSA, AWP, Hoa Binh Water, Cassowary Coast Regional Council and People’s Committee of Hoa Binh City came together to learn from each other as part of the Program in Hoa Binh, Vietnam

Association to Association and Utility to Utility Knowledge Exchange

At the heart of the Program is an understanding that healthy, resilient water sectors are strengthened through the support of healthy, resilient water associations and utilities. With increased connections between associations and utilities in the Asia-Pacific, there is increased capacity to improve the health and wellbeing of people in the region and respond to climate change.  

GiriIndonesian Program utility partners TasWater and Giri Menang are joined in Lombok by association partners PERPAMSI and AWA, during the November 2023 Program knowledge exchange program.  

As part of the knowledge sharing activities of the Program, last month senior leaders from the partnered associations (VWSA, PWWA, and PERPAMSI) participated in a workshop led by AWA on three priority areas common to all partners: member value and business resilience, knowledge exchange practices, and communications for impact. The key messages from the workshop are summarised below.  

1. Member Value and Business Resilience:  

  • To foster sustainability, it is key for associations to understand and meet the needs of their members.  
  • Growing and diversifying revenue streams and membership poses significant opportunities and challenges for associations, as they advance their purpose.   
  • Fostering professional development and celebrating industry successes are key ingredients for sustainability. A diverse, connected membership has greater capacity for sustainability, impact, and influence. 

2. Knowledge Exchange Practices:  

  • A core function of an association is to support the sharing of knowledge and experience across the water sector, from organising events, publications, and media, to supporting specialist networks, young water professionals, and international partnership programs.  
  • Accessibility and inclusivity remain key considerations. 

3. Communications for Impact and Member Insights:  

  • There is a direct correlation between how well members and their needs are understood, and the capacity for associations to create change through meaningful engagement, experience, and communication with these members.  
  • Associations can drive change through the stories that they tell, the people they bring together, and the connections they foster. 

Next Steps

For the current Program, over the next six months, AWA will facilitate:

  • Tailored capacity building workshops with each association 
  • Six in-bound study tours by the international utilities to their Australian utility counterparts  
  • Presentations of lessons learned and future directions by associations and utilities during the international stream at Ozwater’24 in Melbourne (30 April – 2 May 2024)

In line with our commitment to long-term partnerships, AWA will continue working with our key international association partners to support them to achieve their SDG commitments. 

Building long-term relationships that foster the sharing of knowledge, resources, and commitment will enable us to combat the worst effects of a changing climate on the water sectors in our region. 


Feature image of delegates at OzWater (Source: AWA)
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