How to Emerge From COVID Stronger Than We Went In: A Marshall Plan

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Featuring a panel of world-class experts, this seminal webinar covers dramatically scaling up access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic era. The virtual event includes: pre-recorded answers to key questions about WASH, audience Q&A and panelists discussing how to put ideas into action. If you’re seeking answers to specific questions, a table of contents with timestamps can be found beneath the videos.

Panelists Answers to Questions

Q&A Session and Open Discussion

Table of Contents of Timestamps | Where to Find Answers to Specific Questions

How can we empower women in WASH?0:15 (Nabakiibi)10:08- Opportunities for women in WASH (Nabakiibi)45:14 (Nabakiibi)
48:10 (Allen)
48:49 (Kolker)
How do we build strong WASH institutions and what is the role of women?2:46 (Allen)8:18 - Opportunities for women in WASH (Allen)51:04 (Allen)
How must we avoid the sanitation step-child syndrome?3:55 (Mwanza)23:27 - Issue of governance and staff (Mwanza)
What are non-traditional ways to rapidly scale up sanitation?6:30 (Gambrill)4:44 - How to get big donors to fund small projects (Gambrill)

22:47 - Problem with engineers (Gambrill)
What are the prospects for centralized and decentralized funding?8:54 (Gorelick)2:52 - Mechanism for projects seeking grants (Gorelick)

5:35 - How to get big donors to fund small projects (Kolker)

17:55 - Role of governments (Kolker)

19:26 - Other sources of capital (Gorelick)

21:45 - Political skills (Allen)
39:38 (Gorelick)
42:02 (Kolker)
43:40 (Lockwood)
How must we institutionalize a system’s approach?10:29 (Lockwood)15:34 - Investment in the resilience of the WASH sector (Lockwood)

20:42 - Political skills (Lockwood)
54:10 (Lockwood)
What must centralized and decentralized coordination and reporting look like?12:45 (Oldfield)54:10 (Lockwood)
How must governments and the private sector interact?15:20 (Kolker)25:16 - Viable investments (Kolker)

27:23 - Private sector vs public sector utilities (Gorelick)
How must we overcome barriers of female participation?18:04 (Maina)8:58 - Opportunities for women in WASH (Maina)

10:56 - Opportunities for women in WASH (Oldfield)
How can we make investments/interventions more durable?21:18 (Macy)13:20 - WASH image problem (Mwanza)

14:08 - Hand sanitation (Oldfield)

14:50 - Position WASH sector for the next ‘pandemic’ (Gambrill)

29:50 - Durability and the effect on the poor (Macy)

31:28 - Bringing all the elements together (Gambrill)

As a bonus feature, we’re including additional, behind-the-scenes answers to questions posed to members of our elite panel that didn’t appear during the webinar.

General Questions and Answers

Q: How do we increase stakeholders’ awareness (including government and community) to sanitation during pandemic, given sanitation is perceived to have a lower contribution to reduce COVID-19 transmission and to economic recovery during the pandemic, compared with its twin brother, water?

A: Develop and share the impact on the health of the people and economy of the country of doing little or nothing to address the sanitation challenge. There is a link between the lack of access to sanitation to hygiene and as a tool for fighting COVID-19.

Q: Will lessons learned from use of technology to work remotely help reduce cost while simultaneously allowing access to more global experts without requiring many of them to travel?

A: Yes! At the World Bank, we are currently undertaking the majority of our project preparation and implementation remotely.

Q: Why is there little to no attention to building more dry sanitation solutions for accelerating access after COVID? It is much cheaper than waterborne solutions, easier to maintain for the users, it does not draw far less upon scarce water resources, and as a whole it is more sustainable. Is this because it is considered less modern?

A: There is an industry in non-sewered sanitation, with ever-nicer toilets, that is growing and has a greater ultimate demand than sewered systems. Yes, a flush toilet may be what many aspire to, but sewer systems are unaffordable in many cases and as you said not sustainable if there is water scarcity.

Q: With regards to women in the sector, I would like to comment that these questions should not always be directed to women on a panel. It is a shared responsibility to work toward equity.

A: Absolutely agree!

Q: There is also a role for development partners/donors/IFIs working with partner governments to sensitize Finance Ministries: The budget planning to take sufficient account of the annual financing requirements for implementing WASH related strategies of their line ministries responsible for local government, water sector, health etc.

A: 100% agree.

Eleanor Allen

Q: I am a recent civil engineer graduate. I am interested and passionate about WASH. My question is to the women speakers in WASH. What would be the advice for a young female who is interested in becoming a WASH expert. What are the available opportunities for women in WASH?

A: The same opportunities available to men are available to women! Get the best education you can, and then look for job opportunities that allow you to develop your skills and expertise. Also look for a role model that inspires you and look at how they got to where they are. There are good WASH jobs on Devex and Josh’s Water Jobs among others. Good luck! In addition to my response above, I would also say that in my experience it is helpful to have men (and women) as allies. There are still more men in the sector than women, so men need to support women to allow their success as they have greater power to impede their success as well.

Peter Macy

Q: On the question of durable investments, let us not forget Operation and Maintenance (O&M) support as a key feature of sustainable asset management. Peter, please address O&M and how this can be incorporated into investment?

A: In consideration of O&M, the following aspects are key parts of considering investments in a reliable and resilient service beyond only initial capital investment requirements – which utility does the work, who finances it, what are the share of risk to do so between operators and asset holders, and what are the required skills and capacity to do the work.

Q: If you mandate durable investments, who is the responsible party and what penalties apply if an investment fails after 3, 5 or 10 years? A: It’s extremely difficult to penalize the implementers (e.g., contractors) for future investment failure due to circumstances beyond their control. However, mandates can be applied and enforced at the design phase of development projects. This is similar to client mandates for environmental, social and gender planning in the design of projects prior to them being approved. We can do the same for a ‘durability mandate’ whereby certain durability criteria must be met before a project is approved.

Q: In reponse to the COVID-19 pandemic, most governments in LAC made the political decision to postpone the payment of tariffs and prohibit rising tariffs. How can these kind of political measures impact the success of a Marshall Plan?

A: This scenario (government mandates for the provision of water even when the customer doesn’t pay) has, is and will likely continue into 2021. It will impact scaling WASH but not appreciably. Furthermore, in most cases that I’ve heard of, the non-payment of water by customers must eventually be paid back. In essence, it’s an interest free loan from the water service provider to the customer.

John Oldfield

Q: Given the fact that U.S. politicians have a four-year focus (their term in office), while civil engineering has a 30- to 100-year time focus, how do we avoid the interests of individual politicians?

A: The vast majority of the funding to solve any development challenge, including WASH, will come from a combination of public finance and household tariffs. Therefore, we need to not avoid the interests of politicians, but bring them very much into the fold. Infrastructure lifecycles are indeed decades-long, but the benefits of a water and/or wastewater improvement are felt much more quickly, well within most electoral timeframes. Furthermore, if water systems break, politicians will be on the receiving end of angry meetings and phone calls. Politicians should not simply be invited to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the photo opportunity. Those politicians should lead from the front, making commitments to action, and following up immediately with meaningful actions. Citizens (voters) should hold those politicians’ feet to the fire: the voters should consider political leaders’ performance and progress when considering options in the next election. Citizens should also educate candidates who are running for office, so that whomever is elected will be an advocate for water and sanitation when they get elected.  

Q: Are there any global initiatives to support the WASH advocacy/marketing strategy, ensuring that the sector becomes a priority in receiving financial support?

A: There are several global initiatives underway that advocate for WASH in different ways. UN Water coordinates the efforts of various United Nations agencies. UN Water has a very powerful World Water Day 2021 event lined up. The newly-launched Sanitation and Hygiene Fund is an advocacy and investment fund making the case for sanitation and hygiene in the world’s poorest countries. The Sanitation and Water for All Partnership is a global effort to increase political will for WASH, and to urge Finance Ministers in particular to make more meaningful commitments to the challenge.

Joel Kolker

Q: I would like to suggest that technology can play a key role in increasing trust between financiers and utilities. For example, when payments are traceable and digital, and when they can be routed to specific accounts from which loans are remitted, then we can reduce the counter party risk associated with lending money in the water sector. Does Joel have any specific response to this?

A: Respectfully, while technology can certainly help, is needed, and is already making an impact, I believe we need technology plus other key inputs. We still see utilities using smart meters to increase revenue or smart pipes to deal with NRW that continue to have low collection rates and high unaccounted for water. So technology needs to be combined with capacity and leadership to have a real impact on service levels and efficiency.

Q: The lack of efficiency and transparency in the use of financial resources has been a concern before the pandemic. How to quick improve this at the level of governments and utilities in the post-COVID era?

A: Unfortunately, it’s unclear whether the response to the pandemic is improving efficiency and transparency. Nevertheless, we know what needs to be done and the details are well encapsulated in our work around technical and financial efficiency (referred to as Utilities of the Future) and institutional and governance transparency (referred to as Policies, Institutions and Regulations). The Utilities of the Future includes a 100 day turnaround program.  

Q: Do the funding agencies (IFIs) have a grading system for project performance and sustainability/durability? (Would be a quick way to see what has been working in the “A” utilities and why the “F” utilities have failed.)

A: Project performance and sustainability and durability are two different things. Project performance is limited to a specific investment while the sustainability of a utility is a much bigger issue with a multitude of inputs. IFI’s certainly don’t have the mandate, information or capacity to undertake this type of work. A close proxy is credit ratings which tend to look at the fiscal health of a utility, although that his underpinned by the technical performance of the service provider.

Dennis Mwanza

Q: How do utilities set aside money to support budgets when revenues and collections are very low?

A: When operating  in a suppressed revenue environment (i.e. due to government policy on non-payment for water due to the impact of COVID-19), the best is to undertake a prioritizing activity, identify those areas that need to be implemented and prioritize those. There are some activities that are “good to have” but are not necessarily a need.  

Q (Richard Noth): The poor often pay much more for WASH than the more affluent who are connected to network services. How do we overcome the political challenge of not be “willing to charge” for services and to channel subsidies better?

A: There are two issues in this question. First is the poor that are not connected and end up paying more for water cumulatively. The poor normally purchase water in 20 liter units at a price that results in being about US$3-4 per m3 yet the tariff for connected customers might be between US$0.5 and US$1 per m3. For such situations, the utility should consider working on a local private sector driving solution i.e. using water ATM machines. The utility can sell in bulk to the private sector and the private ATM operator sells to the customers at a much lower price. The second question is on the political challenge of not promote the willingness to charge. Politicians usually issue such statements when they do not have much information on the implications of providing urban water services. My approach would be to give a quick but direct answer to the politicians advising what it costs to bring the water to the customers. And that there are mainly two ways to meet this cost. One is through Government taxes hence government budgetary allocation and the other is through beneficiaries paying for the service. Unfortunately the budgetary allocations does not work as the Government has usually a lot of equally or more important areas that compete with water supply. Hence the only way to meet the cost of supplying the service is through charging customers appropriate tariffs. Tariffs must respect and be sensitive to the people in different economic classes i.e. the poor and the rich. Subsidies should only be used for extending connections to households. Subsidizing service does not work as usually those that can afford and have house connections are the one that end up benefiting much to the disadvantage of the poor.


Chris Serjak General Manager – ROCKBlue

Chris Serjak has 20 years of experience in water and sanitation, infrastructure project management, sustainable international development and environmental consulting. Chris currently serves as South Africa Team Leader for the USAID Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Finance project seeking to unlock funding for investment in the WASH sector to meet global targets for universal access to clean water and adequate sanitation. He previously led the $500M water and wastewater sector of USAID’s Iraq Infrastructure Reconstruction Program – the agency’s largest ever infrastructure project. Chris has also managed major infrastructure and environmental projects in Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, and the United States. He began his career in South Africa where he worked on environmental assessments of mining projects in the Royal Bafokeng Nation in northern South Africa, the Maguga Dam in Swaziland, and various commercial projects throughout South Africa and Botswana. Chris has a MSc in Sustainable Development from the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), a postgraduate diploma in Construction Management from the University of Washington, and a BS in Geological and Environmental Science from Stanford University.


Peter Macy President – ROCKBlue

Peter Macy is the founder and president of ROCKBlue, has four decades of engineering and management experience in all aspects of water supply, sanitation, and wastewater. His career started out as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa. He rose to Vice President and Africa Regional Manager for the US engineering company CDM Smith before leaving to devote his full attention to the NGO, ROCKBlue. He has worked within and for numerous public utilities around the world. Peter has managed millions of dollars’ worth of projects, has started up and led country and regional offices. Peter has served as a “thought leader” and guest speaker at numerous conferences and has authored and co-authored books and articles for professional organizations about water resources management. Peter earned a BS degree in IEOR from Syracuse University. Then, through coursework at UC Berkley, University of Denver and Colorado State University, became a practicing and Registered Professional Civil Engineer.

Eleanor Allen Chief Executive Officer – Water for People

Eleanor Allen, a professional engineer working all over the world, is the CEO of Water For People – a global nonprofit helping develop sustainable water and sanitation for millions. Previously she was the Director of Global Water at Arcadis, and Director of Latin America Water at CH2M/Jacobs. Her experience includes improving design and operations of water/wastewater utilities as well as municipal, industrial, and water resources planning, design, construction, program management, and public-private partnerships. Eleanor is a board member at Parametrix and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. She is also a TEDx speaker, Schwab Awardee For Social Entrepreneurship, Denver Outstanding Women in Business award winner, Water Environment Federation Fellow, Influential Woman of Water, and distinguished alumna at the University of California at Berkeley. She serves on the Advisory Board at the University of Colorado – Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities.  

Martin Gambrill Lead Water and Sanitation Specialist – The World Bank

Martin Gambrill is a Lead Water & Sanitation Specialist who has worked at the World Bank for over two decades on the preparation and implementation of water, sanitation, urban development and related investment programs in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe. He currently leads the Bank’s ‘Citywide Inclusive Sanitation’ global initiative. Martin graduated from the University of Leeds in the UK with a B.Sc. in Civil Engineering and went on to obtain his PhD at Leeds on the treatment of wastewater for safe effluent reuse in irrigation. Before joining the Bank, he worked for non-governmental organizations, engineering consultants and in academic research.

Margaret Maina Managing Director – Limuru Water and Sewerage Company

Margaret is an experienced Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the environmental services industry. Skilled in Sustainable Development, Analytical Skills, Environmental Awareness, Proposal Writing, and Management. Strong business development professional with a Bachelor of philosophy in Applied Biology focused in Applied Biology from Technical University of Kenya.

Jeremy Gorelick Senior Advisor, Urban Infrastructure Finance – Green Finance Institute

Dr. Jeremy Gorelick is a development finance practitioner with 20 years of experience in preparing and closing transactions in infrastructure in emerging markets. He has been responsible for raising over USD 1.2 billion for infrastructure projects in emerging markets, through his origination role on Wall Street and his positions as a municipal / infrastructure finance advisor with various aid agencies and DFIs. He acts as the lead for the infrastructure finance team for USAID’s WASH-FIN, designed to help utilities and municipalities across Africa and Asia to raise money for water and sanitation projects.

Joel Kolker Program Manager, Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership – The World Bank

Joel Kolker is the Program Manager of the Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) – the World Bank’s Trust Fund supporting the water sector. Previously he coordinated the World Bank (WB) Water Practice’s global effort to meet financing gaps in the sector. He facilitates increased creditworthiness. He has worked on infrastructure finance in multiple sectors for 35 years, having lived, worked and led projects in over 30 countries. He advises on project finance, PPP, credit enhancements, and institutional, regulatory and governance arrangements. Joel also served as the Africa representative for the WB’s Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) and Africa coordinator for the WB Institute. Before joining the WB, he worked on infrastructure development, decentralization and housing finance projects in Africa and Asia. He holds a BA from George Washington University and Master’s degrees in Urban Planning and Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania.  

Harold Lockwood Director – Aquaconsult Ltd.

Harold is an expert in water supply and sanitation with over 28 years of experience in countries across Latin America, Asia and Africa; his particular area of interest is institutional and policy aspects of sustainable service delivery. He worked in long-term positions in Pakistan between 1993 and 1995, where he was a technical advisor to the Local Government and Rural Development Department and in Nicaragua from 1996 to 1999 where he was advisor to the National Institute for Water and Sanitation. Harold is the director of the UK consulting firm Aguaconsult and regularly undertakes field assignments for a broad range of clients including major bi-lateral donors, multi-lateral agencies, UN organizations, international NGOs, Foundations and private sector companies. Since 2014, Harold has become increasingly involved in systems-based approaches to sector strengthening and reform processes for improving the delivery of rural services.

John Oldfield Principal – Global Water 2020

John Oldfield is a Principal at Global Water 2020, with two decades of experience in the nonprofit and private sectors. An internationally recognized expert in global water security and global health, he has testified before the U.S. Congress several times and has lectured at the Skoll World Forum, Clinton Global Initiative, Singularity University, Rotary International, CEO Water Mandate, National Defense University, and several colleges and universities. Previously, John was the CEO of Water 2017, an effort to encourage the entire U.S. government to elevate and integrate global water security across the U.S. foreign policy and national security architecture. John also served as the CEO of WASH Advocates where he was instrumental in the drafting and passage – with strong bipartisan support – of the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2014.  

Dennis Mwanza Senior WASH Advisor – RTI International

Dennis Mwanza has worked in the water sector for more than 25 years. He started with rural water supply and sanitation and over the course of his career gained experience in urban water supply and sanitation. His professional expertise includes institutional and utility reforms (design and implementation) and regulatory reforms, urban water and sanitation utility operations, commercialization of the urban water sector, engagement of the private sector in service delivery, governance and accountability including policy development and strategic guidance and program management. He is committed to contributing to water supply and sanitation infrastructure and services in a financially viable, sustainable and efficient manner in both rural and urban areas. Dennis holds a PhD in economic regulation of urban water and sanitation.

Winifred Nabakiibi CEO – Pro-Utility Limited

Winnie is a Civil Engineer with a Masters’ Degree in Water Services Management from UNESCO-IHE in Delft, The Netherlands. She is also a Certified Project Management Professional. She has over 14 years of experience in water utility advisory services. Prior to engaging in consulting work, Winnie worked as a full-time advisor to urban water utilities in Uganda. Her work involved elaborating reform policy recommendations, developing strategic approaches for small towns’ water services management including pro-poor service delivery. She was fundamental in developing policy frameworks on water utility asset management and small towns’ performance management. She has also worked on assignments in other countries including Rwanda, Somali-Land, South Africa, Netherlands; and she has received regulatory training at the Public Utility Research Center in the United States.

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