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Responding to COVID-19 – utilities’ experiences

author: Tom Bijkerk

On 11 March the WHO declared COVID-19 pandemic. According to renowned research institutes (treated) drinking water is well protected against viruses, including the Corona virus. Still extra measures are necessary to secure the continuous availability of safe water- and sanitation services for all. 

 

Quarantaine

Examples of measures reported by water utilities in EBC’s benchmarking network are:

 

Technical measures

No extra measures seem to be necessary to secure the quality of treated water or wastewater. Utilities tend to postpone all non-essential projects and maintenance work like meter replacements.

WHO has published a Technical Brief to provide guidance to practitioners on water, sanitation, hygiene, and waste management.

 

Measures towards customers

For extra hygiene like washing hands, customers depend on access to safe water and sanitation services. Measures that are taken by water companies include:

  • temporary refraining from disconnecting customers;
  • suspending payment obligations.
  • WHO recommends paying extra attention to customers in vulnerable situations.

 

Personnel measures

First priority for staff of water companies (like for all) is to protect yourself:

  • extra hygiene (frequently washing hands);
  • social distancing (keep distance to each other of at least 1,5 m)
  • not coming to work if you have any sympton.

 

Organisational measures

To secure the continuity of operations, utilities take organizational measures such as:

  • working as much as possible from home;
  • no face-to-face meetings unless unavoidable;
  • reducing risk of personnel shortages due to illness by introducing shifts also in office positions and management.

 

Exchanging utilities’ experiences

Utilities can learn from each other’s experiences on EBC’s discussion platform. Several utilities already shared recent experiences and we encourage everyone to join. Furthermore a questionnaire was created to collect experiences and challenges so far. The questionnaire is available here

EBC’s platform is open to participants in its benchmarking programme. If your utility is currently not participating but if you still would like to learn from experiences from colleague utilities or contribute to it yourself, please contact administrator@waterbenchmark.org.

 

More information

More information about COVID-19 and water services is available at: