HomeNetherlandsThe UN Water Conference: sustainable drinking water supply in Indonesia

The UN Water Conference: sustainable drinking water supply in Indonesia

Oasen isn’t the only Dutch drinking water company working to provide sustainable access to drinking water in Indonesia. The company also works closely with VEI, which is party to a WOP in the Semarang region. Thomas de Jong is project manager at VEI and intimately acquainted with the challenges in that region. ‘The city of Semarang has a population of around 1.8 million and is experiencing rapid subsidence – up to 10 cm a year,’ he says. ‘This can cause severe flooding. The subsidence is largely due to private parties – businesses as well as households – pumping up groundwater.’

WaterWorX’s objective is to provide 10 million people worldwide with sustainable access to drinking water by 2030 – an ambitious objective that Oasen, a Dutch drinking water company, is helping to achieve in Indonesia. ‘It’s a unique project, in which we’re working with local water companies to bring about lasting change before 2030,’ says Pieter Cusell, international programme manager at Oasen.
Enlarge image Training drinkwaterkwaliteit Indonesië

Image: ©Oasen
WaterWorX facilitates various training sessions in Indonesia, focusing on the sustainable quality and availability of drinking water.

One of the themes of the UN 2023 Water Conference, which was held from 22 to 24 March in New York, was drinking water. The Netherlands sets a global benchmark for drinking water and wants to share its knowledge in this area with other countries. One of the ways it does this is through the WaterWorX programme – a joint initiative of Dutch drinking water companies and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Dutch water experts Thomas de Jong and Pieter Cusell are closely involved in WaterWorX in Indonesia. Today, we talk to them about the programme’s successes and lessons learned.

Three programme phases

Both VEI and Oasen have close contact with the Dutch embassy and the Dutch representative for water who has been seconded to the Indonesian Ministry of Public Works. ‘They’re always willing to brainstorm with us.’ Over the past few years, embassy staff have visited WOP locations to see the progress made so far and how the programme links up with other Dutch water programmes in the region, such as Partners for Water and the Blue Deal.

Enlarge image Pieter en Thomas

Image: ©Oasen
Pieter (left) and Thomas, on the back row, during a visit of the Organization of Indonesian Watercompanies.

And that’s exactly what WaterWorX is about, says Mr De Jong. ‘Ultimately, the aim is to ensure the sustainability and availability of water services and the quality of water in the long term. When the programme ends in 2030, we want local water companies to be capable of continuing their development without us.’ To this end, WaterWorX and the Indonesian Association of Water Supply Companies will sign a partnership agreement in May.

Meeting standards

According to Mr De Jong, building a strong local water company will reduce groundwater extraction. ‘We want to encourage a transition from individual, groundwater-based supply to people using the water company’s services, based on surface water. We are helping the local water company improve their water services step by step, so that they can be an attractive alternative to privately operated groundwater pumps.’

Enlarge image Training pipetteren

Image: ©Oasen
A training in a laboratory in Sragen.

Drinking water was one of the focus themes at the UN 2023 Water Conference. It was the first UN conference on water in almost 50 years and aimed to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals as they relate to water. Other themes included drought, flooding, and democracy in relation to water. Read more about those themes here.

Encouraging the transition to surface water

News item | 30-03-2023 | 09:15 The Dutch managers see their WOPs creating positive effects with local water companies. ‘We always link up a Dutch expert with an Indonesian expert, and adapt our plans to the situation on the ground. This ensures growth of local expertise and boosts the water companies’ reputation,’ Mr Cusell says. ‘And they in turn can share their new insights with other parties.’

Enlarge image In Sragen wordt een nachtmeting uitgevoerd

Image: ©Oasen
The WaterWorX-program in action during a midnight session to assess water quality.

Knock-on effect

Both Mr De Jong and Mr Cusell emphasise that the Indonesian projects are a joint effort. ‘It’s not like we fly in from the Netherlands to tell local companies what they should be doing,’ they say. ‘We’re helping to develop their capacity, based on the needs they’ve identified and tying in with existing, local expertise.’

The WaterWorX programme is made up of three phases. ‘In the first phase, we set up partnerships with local water companies and focused on capacity development, creating a solid foundation for concrete plans,’ Mr Cusell explains. ‘The construction phase started in 2022 and will run until 2026. During this phase, the plans will be implemented. In the final phase, from 2027 to 2030, the emphasis will be on transfer and increasing local water companies’ resilience.’

Enlarge image Pieter en Thomas bezoeken het Indonesische ministerie van I&W

Image: ©Oasen
Pieter and Thomas visit the Indonesian Ministry of Infrastructure.

Brainstorming with the Dutch embassy

Cooperation between Dutch and local water companies is laid down in Water Operator Partnerships (WOPs). Currently, the programme’s focus within these partnerships is on sharing knowledge. Oasen is sharing knowledge with the water company in the Sragen region in Indonesia. ‘The emphasis is currently on improving customer experience and water quality, and reducing losses due to leakage,’ he says. ‘Some 27% of water in Sragen is still lost due to leaks in mains and pipes. Since WaterWorX started in 2017, this amount has been falling by 2% a year.’

UN Water Conference

To improve the quality of drinking water, Oasen has organised courses on working hygienically, provided assistance in setting up a water quality monitoring programme and given lab training. This includes investments in new equipment, enabling more accurate water quality measurements against WHO and national standards.


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