In a time not so long ago, colleagues from the Dutch water operator VEI still could be found in a training room, PRV-chamber or filter with their Zimbabwean peer WaterWorX partners the City of Harare and the Bulawayo City Council.
Back then, in 2018, the Dutch Embassy in Zimbabwe and VEI decided that the time had come to share the knowledge and skills from Dutch experts beyond the WOP: with students, lecturers and practitioners in the whole of Zimbabwe. It was decided to organize together 4 water clinics consisting of a 2-day physical interactive training at the Dutch Embassy in a classroom and in the field.
The first three sessions took place between November 2018 and September 2019. Topics covered were ‘Non-revenue water’, ‘Geohydrology and borehole management’ and ‘Hydraulics’. Shortly after the last session, COVID-19 started to hit hard everywhere.
WOPs have had to come up with new ways to partner in the context of a global pandemic. And it is indeed the case, that WOPs are succeeding to do so in order to continue working on SDG6, now more important than ever. But not just that: they are finding innovative ways to strengthen and expand the impact of the peer-to-peer, not-for-profit partnerships (WOPs).
Online communications has been an ally for WOPs. After postponing the last session multiple times, VEI and the Dutch Embassy in Zimbabwe decided to have an online webinar series of 4 sessions on ‘Water Quality’. Half of the sessions were presented by the local WOP partners City of Harare and Bulawayo City Council.
The series started with some theory from Eva Koper (VEI) focusing on the question ‘Why is water quality monitoring important?’. The next session by Jurjen van Tellingen (VEI) focused on what kind of techniques can be applied, and what techniques are in development.
After learning ‘why’ and ‘how’ to measure water quality, there was a session from Talent Mutoriti (Harare) about setting up a digital water quality monitoring data management system in mWater. It was a detailed tutorial about how to set up a survey, enter responses and visualize data. mWater has great potential for every utility since it is a safe, unlimited, free data management platform that continuously keeps improving.
The fourth and last session was an in-depth case-study from Bulawayo City Council by Sikhumbuzo Ncube. It clearly showed how drought induced intermittent water supply is impacting their operations and subsequently the water quality. There were many questions from utilities and also compliments about their comprehensive and multi-disciplinary response.
Despite some internet and power challenges, VEI shares the digital sessions were a success and a good alternative to the class-room training. A big advantage was that even participants from WOP projects outside Zimbabwe could join (amongst others: Rwanda, Tanzania and the Netherlands). There was great interaction between municipalities but also with students (especially in the first sessions).
Recordings and presentations can be found here
VEI was established in 2004 as a joint venture between the two largest water companies in the Netherlands, Vitens and Evides. VEI is part of the WaterWorX Programme, a partnership of 10 Dutch water operators and local water operators in Africa, Asia and South America aimed to increase access to sustainable water services for 10 million people between 2017-2030 through WOPs.