Study suggests policy recommendations for the sustainability of the water sector in Portugal
The promotion of the aggregation of smaller management entities, the maintenance of certification practices, stricter control of water losses and allocation of staff are the main recommendations put forward by the research.
English version: Diana Taborda
A study conducted by a Portuguese research team identified and analysed the main drivers of sustainability indicators for water utilities and provided policy recommendations for the water sector: the promotion of the aggregation of smaller service providers, the careful control of water losses and personnel allocation, as well as certification practices.
In the scientific article “Drivers of water utilities’ operational performance – An analysis from the Portuguese case”, Rita Martins and Luís C. Dias – researchers from the Centre for Business and Economics Research (CeBER) and professors at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Coimbra, along with António L. Amaral (University of Minho and Coimbra Polytechnic institute) focused on the “the identification of performance drivers of water utilities, crucial to define or fine-tune operational recommendations, as well as to establish guidelines to achieve the objectives of the sector's strategic plans”.
This analysis presented three main results: “the importance of the service provider size on both input and output operational indicators (suggesting the presence of economies of scale), the influence of the allocated personnel and water losses over expenditures and the essential role that the largest service providers attribute to certification policies (environmental and occupational health and safety)”.
According to the research team, the study also concluded that “the largest and the certified service providers are mostly related to a concession-type governance model and predominantly of urban typology”.
The policy recommendations that can be driven from these results are the promotion of the aggregation of smaller service providers, the careful control of water losses and personnel allocation, as well as certification practices.
The policy recommendations presented in the research work are “aligned with the guidelines of the Portuguese Strategic Plan for Water Supply, Wastewater and Stormwater Management – PENSAARP 2030 (Portuguese Secretary of State for the Environment)”, namely “regarding the aggregation of smaller service providers to form larger entities, as well as some efficiency measures, which include the reduction of water losses and allocated personnel, increased expenditures control and quality certification practices”.
The team highlights that “future research needs to fully unveil the underlying dependencies found between the governance model, water treatment typology, and certification policy” in order to improve the performance of the service providers and the sustainability of the sector.
The scientific article is published in the Journal of Cleaner Production and is available here.