By Mulyanda Djohan
Developing countries need a more integrated water management or a "water balance" that should be adhered to by all stakeholders worldwide
This is aimed at preserving the previous but perishable resource, according to Jae So, manager of World Bank Water and Sanitation Program.
"A 'water balance' is a detailed calculation of water demand from agriculture, industry, to household level as well as water supply and resources," Jae told Xinhua by email before delivering a keynote speech at the IWA World Water Congress in Busan, South Korea.
"Developing countries also have to deal with a high rate of non- revenue water or water loss, river pollution and decreasing quality of water resources due to poor sanitation," Jae said.
The high rate of non-revenue water, which in countries such as Indonesia tops 40 percent, affects financial viability of water utilities as well as the quality of water
Governments are expected to deal with the two main factors behind the high rate of unaccounted-for water: both commercial and physical aspects.
River pollution and decreasing quality of water resources also pose serious problems such as increasing water treatment costs and water-borne diseases.
On potentials for conflicts over water resources, Jae suggested to shift the economy to green economic growth that pays more attention on the sustainability of the growth.
"Water is one of the world's most essential resources, and it is getting scarcer. Economic growth is important, but the world's current growth patterns are not only unsustainable, they are also inefficient and inequitable. That is why inclusive green growth is necessary and urgent," Jae said.
"It is far more affordable for countries to act now than to grow dirty and expect to clean up later when growth patterns may be irreversible and will certainly be expensive and socially disruptive to change.Water is the common denominator across all aspects of human dignity,poverty reduction, food security, energy security, industrial growth, and protection of ecosystems," she said.
Jae's keynote speech also touched on public-private partnerships in water.
Jae said while the usage of science and technology, along with the change of people behavior, would give a great benefit on the water management, it is public-private partnerships that are expected to make real improvement on the ground.
According to Jae, there is a tremendous role that both science and technology can play in the provision of safe water.
"There are many innovative technologies which can help to improve the quality of water.However, we think that the sector needs to know better how to motivate people to use the knowledge available in the world," she said.
Jae bewailed the fact that there are still 2.5 billion people in the world who currently do not have access to sanitation.
In some countries, despite the availability of toilets, people were not using them, and instead, defecating in the open.
"This has an impact on the environmental quality of water resources, as well as impact on the diarrheal and other diseases which affect people,"she said.
A study on Public-Private Partnerships for Urban Water Utilities,carried out by the World Bank three years ago, showed that private sector involvement could create very positive outcomes for the service.
"But what's needed for this strong partnership is not always well known, which is why there was still a perception of a debate," she said.
Jae said the world needs both the public and private sectors to work together to produce the best outcomes for the sector, adding that one of the key ingredients for successful public-private collaboration is a strong public sector.
Some of the most successful public private partnerships had produced dramatic improvements for the service.
For example, the Manila Water Company in the Philippines was able to improve services and access to the East Zone of Metropolitan Manila from 26 percent to 99 percent between 1997 and 2009.
According to Jae, effectiveness is not only limited to the large companies because the domestic private sector is equally capable of bringing in efficiencies.
Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, governments had been working with the domestic private sector to professionalize water service delivery in rural communities with great results, she said.