Case Study: Water Management

The world faces a global water crisis. Water scarcity, water related conflicts and pollution are putting pressure on national and local governments. Critical decisions have to be taken to prevent wastage of fresh water and the spread of pollution and to change attitudes towards conserving and paying for this scarce resource.

Governments in the developing world cannot solve these problems on their own. Investment in water can bring huge social, economic and public health benefits – but someone has to pay the bill. Increasingly, authorities are creating imaginative partnerships with private companies to help them provide the basic human rights of clean drinking water and effective sanitation systems.

Meeting these deceptively simple-sounding aspirations involves huge capital investments and world class companies expert in the operation, finance, technology and engineering of water services. Also they have to be culturally and politically sensitive to the implications of these projects and be prepared to commit to the long term. They have to be able to plan, sponsor and develop projects of any size, complete them on time at low cost and run the resulting assets efficiently. They have to develop flexible solutions to meet local needs, from concessions where they take responsibility for improving existing assets, to Build, Operate, Transfer projects that create major new facilities.

A critical factor in creating successful partnerships is the importance placed on developing the people who will design, deliver and regulate the projects, Investment in training and developing managers, engineers, technicians and support staff in both the private and public sectors is vital. We suggest this should be done using action learning methods designed around each stage of project delivery.

Our Approach

Creating policy and implementation frameworks, capacity building of public sector institutions and the development of private sector skills in project financing in the public sector are the essentials of our approach. In addition we focus on partnering, teamwork and continuous improvement in every stage of the development cycle from policy formation and implementation to project delivery.

We are particularly involved in developing the approach to public private partnerships, in developing private sector finance, regulation, technical expertise in physical assets and achieving value for money and a balanced allocation of rewards and risk.

We are also committed to contributing to solving the peri-urban problems of sanitation and delivery of potable water. We are working with WaterAid on how their African Cities initiative can be implemented effectively.

As with other infrastructure sectors we begin with specific country, national and infrastructure development plans and will assess how they cascade down into ministry and SOE organisations and then into priority projects. We then address the implementation of these projects, which are fundamental to achievement of the national plans.

This initiative is being led by 4 faculty members; two being former directors of Mott MacDonald, another a former director of MWH and the Chairman of CBS. These members have many years' experience in the identification, development, procurement and implementation of water sector projects throughout the world. These include:


  • Feasibility studies, design, procurement and construction of aid-funded urban water supply projects in East and Southern Africa.
  • Feasibility, design and construction management of major water and wastewater projects for cities with populations over 1 million in South Asia
  • Working for and with multilateral funding agencies and private sector lenders to secure funding for water sector projects

Typical Water Sector Action Learning Programme

A typical improvement programme should last for a minimum of 1 year, to ensure performance improvements are embedded into the organisation. It would include programmes customised to the needs of the executive team, senior, middle and first-line managers. Typical programmes could be;

  • A strategy implementation programme, for the executive team: the MD and Chief Managers - focusing on integrating the asset infrastructure to deliver the Company's overall strategy.
  • A capital investment and O & M programme, for executive, senior and middle managers in Planning and Capital Development and in the Engineering department – focusing on planning, delivery, operation and maintenance of the Company's water infrastructure.
  • A design and construction implementation programme, for the Company middle managers down to first-line level, plus key supply chain and design and construction staff – focusing on implementing new working practices and contract types, improving relationships and behaviour at design office and site level.

Each of these three programmes would normally consist of a series of 5 to 8 intensive, week-long training modules, at intervals of 2 – 3 months, with participants also working on their projects in between these modules. Each programme would contain the same four key action learning elements, namely customised workshops, group and individual projects, and personal development plans (PDPs).

Case Study: The Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA)

This assignment involved conducting a Diploma in Water and Waste Water Management for the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority and accredited by the University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate. This was a 12-month programme conducted by the Chairman of CBS, the former Chief Executive of Thames Water, his IT director, the former Finance Director of United Utilities and a Director of Black and Veatch. These individuals produced state of the art material for the 5 workshops which were used by the participants to inform their group and individual projects and their personal development plans.


Other Activities in the Water Sector

At the request of the Indian Minister of Urban Development we conducted 2 two-day workshops for 30 senior Ministry and Municipal staff. These workshops covered the funding and management of water utilities, and the Regulation of the urban water and sanitation sector in India, delivered by CBS faculty, the International Director of Scottish Water and the Regulator of the Scottish Government.

The German aid agency (GTZ) requested us to design an action learning programme for an government owned East African water and sewerage organisation. The programme was entitled 'Effective Water Company Assets; planning, delivery, operation and maintenance' and aimed to improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the Company and its ability to implement its Corporate Plan, and to develop the leadership and management competence of individuals at all levels in the Company.

Our next water programme was part of the Diploma in the Management of PPP for the Government of Ghana. One of the group project teams focused on the financing of water assets. Another involved defining bankable PPP projects and how they would be managed in the corporatised water company. This led to proposals for an action learning programme for the total company based on implementing the business strategy and a proposal to develop the capacity and output of their somewhat neglected training centre.