May 2020 – What are we up to?

The ROCKBlue team is always looking to help our partners in more innovative and effective ways. We recognize the many challenges that COVID-19 brings to all industries and realize the importance of the water and sanitation sector in the fight against this pandemic. We therefore try to turn these challenges into opportunities to have an even larger impact within communities across the world. Here are some of the opportunities we have capitalized on in May:

COVID-19 Emergency/Business Continuity Planning

Many of our utility partners are only paid for a fraction of the water they provide to their community. Their financial stability is weak. Hence it is hard to cover operating expenses and almost impossible to finance capital expansion (e.g., a new well or pipeline). These utilities, that were already struggling before the Coronavirus pandemic, are seeing 30 percent revenue reductions. Their predictive models are indicating further revenue losses of up to 60 percent.

A water utility’s struggle invariably results in grave risks for the lives of the communities they serve. To borrow actor Matt Damon’s words “water is PPE” (personal protective equipment). When a utility can no longer afford chemicals, no longer has enough staff, and no longer has adequate funds to operate, then water and sanitation services suffer. ROCKBlue understands this. We are now spending considerable time on COVID-19 related challenges, with a lot of effort going into planning for the peak of COVID-19, expected to hit our communities in August/September.

Our support varies from sharing information to helping prepare emergency plans. We know this is not a short-term challenge but one that will be intense for months and will last for years. Fortunately, our model is such that there is no end date to our help for our partner utilities. We will remain at their side until no longer needed.

Access to Capital Finance

Access to finance for operational and capital expenditures is indispensable for utilities. Without it their communities are only partially served, and many will get sick or worse. ROCKBlue has had to pivot to provide more finance-related guidance for our utility partners. This spans both short- and long-term finance. We are tracking possible finance opportunities from commercial banks to development finance institutions such as the World Bank and advocate for rapid access to finance mechanisms. All on behalf of our partner utilities.

Knowledge Management focused on COVID-19

Our utility partners are hungry for information – particularly associated with COVID-19. The avenue we use for providing this is through our Knowledge Management Initiative. Here we endeavor to provide both current and relevant information, which can be immediately applied. We do this through blog posts on our website. Tapping into the rich body of knowledge from our roster of over 100 utility specialists. We have also conducted workshops and webinars. These further share information and lessons learned from utility managers to their peers. Finally, we recently started our Online Lecture Series (OLS).

New Team Members

To enable ROCKBlue to better serve its existing utility partners we are expanding. As such, we introduce three important additions. Jo Burgess recently joined our Board of Directors. Jenni de Waal came on as a Program Manager. And Tarlin Nair joined our finance and accounting department. Thomas Butler was recently promoted to Director of Finance and Operations. You will learn more about them in later communications.

Continued progress with our utility partners

Our specialists and resident representatives continue working together with ROCKBlue’s utility partners via the safety of our virtual platforms. The focus remains their short- and long-term goals, however, we have implemented new measures to ensure constant feedback on their needs and challenges in today’s everchanging circumstances. Despite 19 Challenges unique to the developing world, and COVID-19, they continue progress towards their goals.