email resource!
about the website
contact us

PrivatisationAlternatives / ReformsPublic-Public PartnershipsFinancing Public Water
Case StudiesAnalysesCampaigns

Jul 08 2004
Supplied or written by Luis Sanchez and Raul Salvatierra

demonstration during the 'water war', spring 2000

Advances in Cochabamba

Note on the process of setting up the Association of Neighborhood Drinking Water Committees and on the definition of the Co-Management Model in cooperation with the Municipal Drinking Water and Sewerage Service. [1]

By Luis Sanchez and Raul Salvatierra

On Sunday February 29th, 45 Drinking Water Committees from the southern zone of Cochabamba participated in the FIRST SEMINAR. With this seminar we started a new process aimed at establishing new ways of partnerships for the participative and social management of basic services, in cooperation with Water and Sewerage Municipal Service (SEMAPA) and the Basic Sanitation Municipal Utility (EMSA). [2]

The southern area, with over 130,000 inhabitants, is not yet receiving SEMAPA services and it not even included in the state concession to SEMAPA. The area comprises over a hundred neighborhoods (barrios) which during the last 30 years have become inhabited by immigrants coming from the high plateau or the valleys, from mining or agricultural areas.

Since these neighborhoods do not have access to the municipal drinking water services, they have created their own Local Neighborhood Committees to meet their needs. They established their fees, they requested international assistance, built wells and traced their neighborhood network. They have been managing this service for 7, 10, 12 years.

In the "Water War" the participation of these neighborhoods was outstanding, because the Law of Drinking Water (Law 2029) granted the transnational company the concession for every water source, thus including also the wells of the Local Committees.

During this year, SEMAPA will be granted the concession for this entire area and it has the project of bringing water to our neighborhoods, starting with some 180-200 liters/second from September of this year. Before this, the Committees that have been meeting regularly in 2003 had expressed their wish not to disappear when SEMAPA takes charge of the water and sewerage service, which our Committees currently manage. They want to continue to provide the services and enlarge their networks to all those neighbors that are not yet connected to their neighborhood systems. Originally, 3 years ago, we assumed that SEMAPA, reclaimed in the "Water War" and having social participation, should have the state concession, thus enlarging its action sphere in the entire municipality of Cochabamba. However, Neighborhood Committees started to set forth the possibility of continuing to be effective and share with SEMAPA the services management responsibilities. The need for SEMAPA's water in our neighborhoods is evident. To keep on drilling wells to supply us with water from the subsoil is seriously damaging the water table in the entire valley. In addition, in many of our wells, there is no high quality water. But this does not necessarily mean that we should dismantle our organization and give up the ability we have shown in managing these services. On the contrary, it impels us to enter a dialogue and consensus process with the authorities to define a model of co-management of basic services in such a way that our communal organizations and the de-centralized municipal institutions can co-manage these services jointly, each assuming their own roles and functions.

That is why we have started this process, which will last 6 months, beginning with the above-mentioned seminar. In this process, we aim to strengthen the experience in communal management shown by the community organizations, and ensure that these are recognized and given the juridical-legal character of an institution managing the basic services in the southern districts of Cochabamba City, in an agreement with the public authorities and organizations. That is to say, our proposal is not simply to hand over the service to a "third-party", and much less to privatize a part of the service process, but rather to integrate the communal management carried out by the community organizations with the management carried out by SEMAPA. Within the process, we will have to define the co-management model that we will apply (for instance the Water Committees will take charge of the entire administrative work while SEMAPA will run the technical management).

The Water Committees (Comites de Agua) and the Cleaning and Sanitation Associations (Asociaciones de Aseo y Limpieza) will make a Strategic Planning Process to design and apply new ways of partnership that will strengthen them in their ability to manage the basic services and will adapt them to the legal framework as entities or agencies providing the basic services. They will also organise a process of skill training on the administrative, technical and legal management of the communal organizations.

Finally, we aim to systematize and publicize at both the national and international levels all of the shown experience and the acquired strengthening in the participative communal management of the basic services.

As a last thing, the year 2004 is offering us a historical opportunity which must be also taken into consideration since the Regulations of the Law 2066 must be finalized, as these are still pending since 2001. In these Regulations, the regulatory frame for the service that is provided - and that will continue to be provided - by our Committees will be defined, as well as the relationship with SEMAPA.

1: In Spanish, respectively "Asociación de Comites Vecinales de Agua Potable" and Servicio Municipal de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado.
2: Respectively Servicio Municipal de Agua y Alcantarillado (SEMAPA) and Empresa Municipal de Saneamiento Basico (EMSA)

Welcome to the resource section. Here you can find a wealth of analysis about (alternatives to) privatisation, public-public partnerships, financing public water and other key topics.