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Comprehensive Methodology for Overall Performance Assessment of Water Utilities

Abstract

Water utilities render a public service that highly influences sensitive domains such as human health, society, economy, environment and policy. In the context of diversification of water uses, scarcity of water resources, pollution of surface and underground resources, energy optimisation and public funding cuts, the improvement of water utility performance represents a real challenge. A water utility is an organisation of human and material resources for the purpose of taking advantage of water resources to deliver drinking water to the population, implying a trade-off between technical, economical, financial and organisational aspects. A partial performance is commonly measured by considering each aspect separately, so a real challenge consists in developing a methodology that includes all the aspects of water utility performance using multiple indicators. The current paper is based on an original conceptual vision of the water utility as an organisation focused on the customer and built on four fundamental pillars: human resources, financial resources, assets and environment. The proposed approach uses an elicitation procedure involving the decision maker to co-build comprehensive core indicators belonging to each pillar and then calibrates them according to the context of the water utility, decision maker preferences and ad-hoc performance thresholds. In the end, performance is assessed both at the individual and overall scale. A specific metric is defined for overall performance calculation that should be monitored over a specified time period to check its trend and redefine implemented policy in the case of a downgraded situation. An illustration of the methodology is given for the water utility of Grenoble (France).

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Acknowledgments

The work presented was carried out within the framework of a specific collaboration contract funded by the water utility of Grenoble. We are grateful to all of the utility employees who helped us with our research and provided us with data, information and advice.

Author information

Correspondence to Amir Nafi.

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Nafi, A., Tcheng, J. & Beau, P. Comprehensive Methodology for Overall Performance Assessment of Water Utilities. Water Resour Manage 29, 5429–5450 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11269-015-1127-3

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Keywords

  • Assessment
  • Function
  • Overall
  • Indicator
  • Management
  • Monitoring
  • Performance
  • Threshold
  • Water utility