258205 Public-public partnerships: An alternative model to leverage the capacity of municipal water utilities

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mark Schlosberg, JD , Organizing Department, Food & Water Watch, San Francisco, CA
Universal access to safe and affordable water and sanitation service is crucial for public health, but achieving it will require significant investments in infrastructure and expertise. Worldwide, an estimated 884 million people worldwide lack access to safe water and 2.6 billion people lack access to improved sanitation, and in the United States, water and sewer systems have a $55 billion annual funding gap. Public-public partnerships are an innovative model uniquely suited to help address these needs. A public-public partnership is a collaboration between two or more public entities to improve public services on a not-for-profit basis. By bringing together two or more public entities to pool resources, buying power and technical expertise, these partnerships can leverage the capacity of public utilities to improve service and control costs. Public-public partnerships, whether domestic or international, promote public delivery of water through sharing best practices. Although these partnerships can be used for many public functions, including roads and electricity, they have particular applicability to water, which requires both regional cooperation and attention to local needs. A review of U.S. experiences identifies three common strategies employed by these partnerships to improve service and enhance efficiency: pooled purchasing, shared services and reengineering. In the last two decades, major multinational efforts have relied on private sector strategies, including public-private partnerships involving private water companies, to provide water services in both developed and developing countries, but a literature review reveals that public-public partnerships outperform public-private partnerships in terms of efficacy, efficiency and equity. Public-public partnerships are a practical and responsible way to strengthen and develop public water and sewer services.

Learning Areas:
Other professions or practice related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Describe public-public partnerships for improving water and sewer services. Identify strategies employed by public-public partnerships to reduce costs and improve water and sewer services. Assess the performance of public-public partnerships in terms of service quality, affordability and access rates. Compare public-public partnerships to public-private partnerships for water and sewer services with a focus on efficiency, equity and efficacy.

Keywords: Water, Infrastructure

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am organizing Director at Food & Water Watch, a national consumer group dedicated to protecting our water systems and keeping them in public hands.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.