On this World Day of Creativity and Innovation, we want to highlight creative tools from the water and sanitation sector that improve water management in Latin America and the Caribbean.
By Andrea Ortega C*.
Albert Einstein once said that “a problem cannot be solved by thinking in the same way as when it was created”. Innovation puts this idea into practice; itis used to find new ways of doing things. In the water and sanitation sector, innovation is vital to optimize available water resources.Creativity is another useful tool, since it can allow us to improve water and sanitation access and quality. Here are several tools that rely on innovation and creativity to solve challenges in the sector:
Optimizing water management begins with efficient and transparent services. Several indicators already measured this, but they did not provide best practices or evaluate implementation or the reliability of selected variables. Looking for a comprehensive tool that incorporated all these variables, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) collaborated with the International Water Association (IWA) to develop AquaRating, which began its beta application in 2013 and its final application in 2014.
The Cooperation Fund for Water and Sanitation (FECASALC in Spanish), the European Union through the Latin American Investment Facility (LAIF) and AquaFund supported the implementation of AquaRating for operators through diagnoses and improvement plans. They also financed the development of a gender module for water and sanitation companies and operators.
AquaRating has been implemented in 119 water and sanitation service providers from 31 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and Oceania to help companies, regulators, government institutions, and cooperation agencies determine action plans and develop transformation processes and benefit over 116 million inhabitants.
This is the first tool that incorporates best practices to assess and characterize management that has been translated and applied in Spanish, English, Portuguese, Mandarin, Arabic, and Mongolian.
How does it work?
AquaRating is a free tool that provides guidance, support, and training to use each of its applications. All information provided by companies is covered by confidentiality agreements.
Through a comprehensive evaluation, AquaRating measures the performance and quality of management processes, practices, and technologies. Its mechanisms also assess the reliability of the information provided by companies to validate consistency and veracity. Through this digital platform, each company can self-evaluate and record its information confidentially.
Once the evaluation is complete, professionals and authorized firms articulate a support and validation model that can culminate in the delivery of an AquaRating (verified) Characterization or an Certification.
AquaRating values the innovation and creativity of water and sanitation companies as a means to improve service quality through analyses of:
- Innovation culture
- Creativity and innovation management
- Implementation of innovative technologies and solutions
- Digital transformation processes and their degree of implementation
- And a tool to develop innovation plans.
To learn more, download Aquarating: An international standard for evaluating water and sanitation services.
The Integral System of Sustainability and Institutional Strengthening (SISRI) was created to help improve the sustainability of small water and sanitation operators, wastewater treatment and waste management services in rural and peri-urban areas. Developed by the Cooperation Fund for Water and Sanitation (FECASALC), it helps define improvement plans and identify needs to launch new investment programs.
How does it work?
Municipalities, cooperation agencies, and NGOs can use SISRI to identify, analyze and evaluate the operators’ needs in their infrastructure systems, administrations and communities to support economic, technical, social and environmental modernization measures in the short, medium and long term.
It works through field questionnaires, analysis and evaluation models, performance models, methodological guidelines, annexes, asset management systems, prioritization tools and other support systems that define the start of future operator improvement plans, as well as the status of its infrastructure and management systems to launch new investments.
SISRI pilot tests were successful in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Its use is expected to expand to the rest of the region.
Creativity can help make societies more equitable and inclusive. The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID in Spanish), ONGAWA, and the Spanish public company Tragsatec developed a practical tool that effectively incorporates human rights into municipal water and sanitation management toreview the criteria and principles that ensure that water resources are guaranteed to all people.
It helps public administrations measure their level and quality of access, especially in rural communities. It delves into the lines of work previously developed by the Fund, such as the checklist for compliance with human rights in water and sanitation projects.
How does it work?
The objective is to help generate knowledge about the obligations of municipalities to guarantee the human rights to water and sanitation and to make self-diagnoses and make recommendations to advance along these lines.
This tool is divided into two sections, one for water and another for sanitation. It is free, anonymous, and available online and in PDF format. Its didactic approach makes it easy to use. It is designed to be carried out in workshops to promote the exchange of ideas and achieve results to optimize and improve municipal governance. Users will receive results, explanations, and a road map to advance in the fulfillment of these human rights.
The World Day of Creativity and Innovation invites you to support innovations that expand opportunities and generate new solutions for the most relevant problems of our society. Guaranteeing access to water and sanitation is a priority. These tools improve water management and measure how far we are from achieving this goal.
FECASALC is part of the Spanish Cooperation Water Fund As of 2021, it has benefited more than four million people and improved water governance by supporting the institutional strengthening of partner countries and working for human rights to water and sanitation. Its programs have made it possible to make key investments to guarantee water and sanitation in Latin America and Caribbean, with an emphasis on peri-urban and rural areas that concentrate the highest levels of poverty and lowest levels of coverage.
To learn more about the work of FECASALC and its projects in the last 12 years, download “Advances and contributions of FECASALC to the water and sanitation sector in Latin America and the Caribbean“.
*Andrea Ortega is a communications consultant for the Water and Sanitation Cooperation Fund of the Spanish Cooperation Agency (FCAS) and the IDB.