Utility Benchmarking Tools by Richard Noth

We’ve all heard the expression “that which is measured gets done” – which is highly applicable to running a utility. It’s critical for utilities to prioritize key goals and tasks; and, for each of these, determine how they can be effectively measured. Utility benchmarking and measurement not only helps improve the utility’s service delivery, but it will often impact their credit rating – hence, their access to financing.

For a brief overview of benchmarking, please take a look at this presentation by Dennis Mwanza, one of ROCKBlue’s Board members.  Or, you can watch this video by the Water Research Foundation on the subject of performance benchmarking. For those wanting greater capacity in benchmarking there are also numerous courses that you can take such as from IHE Delft.

Fortunately, you need not invent your own measurement indicators or create your own benchmarking tools. There exist numerous tools that have already been developed and we have briefly highlighted just four of them in this blog.

IBNET

IBNET, administered by the World Bank, is the most widely used of the tools, particularly in the developing world. Before using it, the user should be aware of its advantages and limitations.

Advantages:
  • It’s free
  • It’s quite easy to use and provides at least some data on utilities
  • It offers clear data guidelines for utilities and their partners. Use of IBNET is facilitated through its The IBNET Water Supply and Sanitation Performance Blue Book
Limitations:
  • Lack of complete confidence in the (self-reporting) data; and, typically, poorer performing utilities provide lesser quality data or no data at all
  • Private utilities are disinclined to provide their data
  • Indicators do not represent all countries (latest figures indicate data from 70% of the countries)
  • Not all years are reported (although over 50% of those reporting provided data for least four years)

Please click here for more information on IBNET.

EUM

Effective Utility Management (EUM) employs ten attributes (e.g., customer satisfaction) and five keys to management success (e.g., leadership and measurement). EUM was established by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and six national water and wastewater associations. It requires a self-assessment and then implementation of EUM.

You can read more about this in Effective Utility Management A Primer for Water and Wastewater Utilities

Please click here for more information on WaterEUM.

Agua Rating

Agua Rating is relatively new and is rapidly gaining prominence as a tool for utilities to use, particularly in the developing world. It was developed by the Inter-American Development Bank in close collaboration with the International Water Association. Agua Rating involves a self-assessment of eight evaluation areas (e.g., service quality and operational efficiency).

There is a rigorous process of validation of results as well as independent certification. The certification cycle includes planning, self-assessment and preliminary rating that leads to an improvement plan; next comes the auditing and certification.

It’s been primarily used in Latin America but is starting to be used elsewhere including in Africa.

Please click here for more information on Agua Rating.

AWWA

AWWA’s benchmarking tool calculates performance indicators in five areas (e.g., business operations and customer service). Within the five areas, there are multiple indicators (the total being 54)

This tool has been used almost exclusively in North America

Please click here for AWWA’s program and here for the indicators that they use. A benchmarking manual is also available for purchase.