Improving water and wastewater services

2009-April-14

The Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards (ABBS) is presents this week's article by Roger Aertgeerts, World region, Health Organization, and Pierre Studer, Chair Task Force on. Indicators and Reporting under the Protocol on Water and Health. The article entitled ISO Standards and Protocol on Water and Health focuses continues the thought on water and more specifically the role that standardization plays in ensuring that it safe for human use and consumption. Mr. Aertgeerts and Mr. Studer say thus:

"Water constitutes a worldwide challenge for the 2lst Century, both in terms of management of available water resources and in the provision of access to drinking water and sanitation for the world's population. In 2000, the United Nations recognized that access to water is an essential human right.

Following the two World Water Forums - in Kyoto in March 2003 and in Mexico in March 2006- the international community committed to improving governance of drinking water and wastewater services. Building capacity with local governments is identified as a priority in this effort.

The big challenge

Standardization work started in 2002 within 150 technical committee ISO/TC 224, Service activities relating to drinking water supply systems and wastewater systems - Quality criteria and performance indicators. The committee faced an important challenge: to produce ISO standards dealing with water services that can be used in developed and developing countries, in rural areas and in cities, and regardless of whether the water utilities are publicly or privately operated.

The objective was to provide the relevant stakeholders (regulators, bodies, private and public operators, users and others) with practical tools for assessing and improving the service and … guidance for managing water utilities, both for the interests of users and for environmental protection.

Some 35 countries and eight international organizations were involved in preparation of the standards, under the leadership of the ISO member for France, Association française de normalisation (AFNOR), which was the initiator of the project.

An ambitious original trio

The suite of three ISO water service standards was published in December 2007 in English and French versions (official ISO translations into Spanish are expected to be available in the next few months). The three standards were built according to a common scheme, and feature common parts such as the introduction, terms and definitions, assessment processes and a performance indicators approach. They are closely linked and constitute a set of coherent tools.

ISO 24510:2007, Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services - Guidelines for the assessment and for the improvement of the service to users, is a service-oriented standard addressing a number of topics:

  • a brief description of the components of the service relating to the users;
  • core objectives for the service, with respect to users' needs and expectations;
  • guidelines for satisfying users' needs and expectations;
  • assessment criteria for service to users in accordance with the guidelines provided;
  • examples of indicators linked to performance assessment criteria.

ISO 24511:2007, Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services - Guidelines for the management of wastewater utilities and for the assessment of wastewater services, and ISO 24512:2007, Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services - Guidelines for the management of drinking water utilities and for the assessment of drinking water services, both of which are management-oriented, address the following topics:

  • a brief description of the physical? infrastructural and managerial institutional components of water utilities;
  • core objectives for water utilities, considered to be globally relevant at the broadest level;
  • guidelines for the management of water utilities;
  • guidelines for the assessment of water services with service assessment criteria related to the objectives, and performance indicators linked to these criteria.

Dedicated to public services

These standards are original and ambitious, combining a service standard approach (linked closely to the ISO 9000 quality management and ISO 14000 environmental management series) with a sustainable development approach. They, in fact, constitute a first approach dedicated to the case of public services. This implies taking into account sustainable development values such as integration of public objectives (protection of the environment, rights and access to water for all), and participation of users or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as defined in the Aarhus Convention

These standards are globally-relevant, and therefore provide guidelines as recommendations without imposing the means. The aim is to permit the broadest possible use of the standards, while respecting the cultural, socio-economic, climatic, health and legislative characteristics of the different countries and regions of the world. Some recommendations may not be attainable in some countries, in which case they should be considered as goals for continuous improvement."

For more information about Accreditation, Laboratory Accreditation and metrology kindly contact the Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards, Corner Redcliffe Street & Corn Alley, P.O. Box 1550, St. John's, Antigua (W.I.) or Telephone 462-2424 or email: abbs@antigua.gov.ag.

 

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