Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in. Today at least 663 million people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.4 billion lack access to improved sanitation, such as a toilet or latrine. By 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water.
Improving the way we conserve, manage, and deliver water is fundamental to solving this water crisis and achieving universal and equitable access to water and sanitation services. Effectively addressing these challenges will require that the skills and resources of both public and private sectors be brought to bear.
While evidence shows that public-private partnerships (PPPs) can and do deliver improved services, introducing 24/7 supply and improving utility performance, water is a challenging sector to introduce private participation. Entrenched ideologies, can make water PPPs a very tough sell to government and public alike. The water sector lags behind other infrastructure sectors in private sector participation. Over the last 10 years, there were 545 water projects involving private participation in emerging markets, less than a third of the number of energy projects over the same period. Investment in these same projects represent only six percent of investment in the energy sector.
Despite the relatively low participation of the private sector, there has been innovation in the past 10 years: new private parties are emerging, with local and regional players in both the rural and urban sub-sectors, and there are three areas in which PPPs have showed significant promise in the water sector.