CMWU: delivering world class water services
The Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) is responsible for providing the people of Gaza with its full complement of water and waste water services. The utility is going ahead with its projects (which total roughly $1.6 billion) in an effort to restore optimal water services in Gaza and is doing so against the backdrop of Israel’s ongoing conflict with Hamas.
The CMWU’s remit is to deliver integrated, environmentally safe water and sanitation services to the Gaza strip, making use of the area’s natural aquifer, as well as using innovative solutions to diversify water supply and secure the region’s waste treatment solutions. The utility uses a combination of desalination and treatment plants in order to secure the best possible offering for its customers.
CEO Monther Issa Shoblaq outlined how the formation of the utility in 2005 had filled a vital gap with its full service package. He said: “You cannot depend on 25 fragmented departments to manage everything, from water works and new wells, to tanks, collections, treatment and disposal, so we mobilised significant investment in order to improve the water service through becoming a strong operator.”
While it uses the most modern and up-to-date technology across its facilities, the utility has faced the challenge of maintaining operations while the war between Israel and Hamas raged all around. From an operational point of view, the fighting saw the destruction of water networks and facilities to the tune of some $34 million and resulted in the loss of up to 30 percent of its power supply.
The only power plant in the Gaza Strip was destroyed in 2006 and, since then, the community has only been able to satisfy 50 percent of its electricity needs. The utility has been able to mitigate this problem, at least to some extent, by deploying backup generators across its facilities.
Continuing to operate in these conditions has required innovative thinking; the CMWU has fitted its facilities with backup generators in order to minimise disruption and has even used old sections of an Israeli wall for the construction of a new sewage lagoon.
Shoblaq was proud of what the CMWU had achieved despite this, he said: “Our capacity to provide services, in terms of infrastructure, is advanced. We provide 98 percent of the population of Gaza with water which you just don’t see in any other countries.”
The CMWU has managed to attract high profile donors who are keen to assist in rebuilding Gaza, which include the World Bank (WB) as well as the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). Alongside other prominent donors such as UNICEF, the European Union, ICRC, AFD and various international government donors, CMWU have secured upwards of $1.6 billion intended to secure clean drinking water and consistent waste disposal for the whole of Gaza.
Securing the support of donor governments and organisations has enabled the utility to prevent the water service from deteriorating despite all that has happened and has enabled it to continue to roll out improvements to its networks as any other water company would do.
Shoblaq explained: “On the waste water side, only 70 percent was covered by the sewage networks; we expanded this sewage network to avoid waste water pollution because these uncovered areas were served by septic tanks.”
“In accordance with the Palestinian water sector plan in the late 90s, the need to build up non-conventional water sources using brackish and sea water desalination plants has been recognised and adapted. We now have twenty brackish water plants, which vary in output from 50 cubic metres per day, to 50 cubic metres per hour.
“We have a small sea water desalination plant financed by the Austrian government which produces around 600 cubic metres per day; we expanded this with funding from the IDB and World Bank to produce 2,600 cubic metres per day.”
By 2023, the CMWU wants to reach an output of 100 million cubic metres per year through its desalination operations and will achieve this through the construction of two dedicated plants at a cost of roughly $500 million sourced from the European Union and IDB.
In addition, CMWU in cooperation with Palestinian Water Authority (Water Sector Regulator) have launched the construction of two central WW treatment Plants; one in the Middle Governorate and the other in the Southern Governorate with a total amount of around $130 million. The two plants are financed by KfW and Japan Government & IDB.
When conditions were less tense in the region until 2006, Shoblaq was keen to emphasise that there had been a transfer of knowledge and skills between his 850 staff and their Israeli counterparts; he was adamant that as greater dissemination of knowledge as possible was essential to providing the most efficient and effective service.
He said: “We train our teams regionally whenever we have the opportunity; especially when we have the chance to send along our senior managers.”
Furthermore, Shoblaq highlighted how the spirit of completion could be used even during trying circumstances and had further contributed to a sense of solidarity across employees of every level. He added: “In terms of incentivising our staff, we have an award for the best worker in a particular field and a system of evaluating their performance through a yearly award: this can be certification, recognition or financial incentives.”
The determination of the CMWU to deliver its crucial water and sanitation services to the people of the Gaza strip cannot be over emphasised. It is expanding, rebuilding and driving excellence across the spectrum of its operations and, through working with its local and international partners and donors, the utility is making massive progress towards providing the best possible service.
Read the January 2017 issue of Energy Digital magazine
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.