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Accelerate the scaling up of effective peer-to-peer partnerships between Water Operators worldwide
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18-29 October 2021


Learning from each other, sharing experiences, and inspiring action is a critical way for water and sanitation operators to improve their services and enrich the lives of the people they serve.

Collaboration and solidarity are at the heart of the Global WOPs Congress and the event seeks to be inclusive and fair in its representation. + more

This free and open event is convened by the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance - a global network of public operators and their partners - led by UN-Habitat

Download the Congress Brochure

We as GWOPA have a strong commitment towards gender, cultural, geographical and stakeholder representation, and work hard to ensure it is fair and even in all our activities. Now that it is the time to prepare the sessions and panels for the 4th Global WOPs Congress, we would like to share with you a few reflections and encourage you to consider them while proposing the speakers.

As all male panels are not only a misrepresentation of the sector diversity, but also a disservice to gender equality struggles in all its dimensions, we make gender diversity a precondition for GWOPA organized events. Not only female, but also young professional and mentee speakers are usually underrepresented and hence always encouraged. GWOPA is supporting speakers to panels and will offer special support and orientation sessions ahead of the Congress.

  • Thematic-focused Sessions

    Access for All Debate #AccessForAll

    A big gap exists between the rallying cry to ‘leave no one behind’ and the water and sanitation reality on the ground. Vulnerable groups continue to be the hardest to reach and last served. What can human rights advocates and service providers learn from one another to bridge this divide between the ambition and the reality?

    The objective of this session is to better understand and bridge the rift between Human Rights prerogatives and operational challenges in delivering water and sanitation services to all.

    Featured speakers and participants:
    Special Rapporteur HRtWS, UN-Habitat

    Are WOPs helping the most Vulnerable? #AccessForAll

    A growing number of Water Operators Partnerships have the explicit aim of increasing access to services in underprivileged communities. How is this working out? In this session, Low-income area coordinators from WaterWorX and other WOP initiatives will speak to their experience and engage in a connection with Northern-hemisphere resource managers on their perspectives and approach to the shared topic of how to reach the poorest and most vulnerable end users in a service area.

    Learning Objectives: how can utilities help one another reach informal settlements and, in particular, the most vulnerable groups within them? What are the strengths and limitations of WOPs in bridging access to the hardest to serve?

    Featured speakers and participants:
    WWX, SIP, Wateraid

    Utilities making inclusive sanitation a reality #AdvancingSanitation

    Citywide Inclusive Sanitation (CWIS) promotes a public service approach to extend and sustain inclusive sanitation services across urbanized service areas. This means focusing on service provision and its enabling environment, rather than on building infrastructure. It requires awareness raising and capacity building, capturing best practices, working in coordination with complementary city services and stakeholders, and the development and use of tools that help better design and implement sustainable urban sanitation services for all.

    The session will showcase utilities along the sanitation chain - drawing on the full range of available and appropriate technologies including onsite and sewers, centralized or decentralized. Examples of effective resource recovery and re-use through innovative business models will inspire participants.

    SWOP it! Building utilities’ capacity to meet the sanitation challenge through peer-learning

    Featured speakers and participants:

    Climate Resilient Water Supply and Sanitation Systems

    #ClimateAdaptation · #AdvancingSanitation

    Most water Supply and Sanitation operations were planned and constructed in a different climate context than that in which we find ourselves today. To preserve the longevity of water supply and sanitation operations, as well as the safety of personnel, it’s crucial to discuss, develop and integrate climate resilient practices and measures into the water and sanitation systems.

    The session will provide tangible examples of climate adaptation measures in the context of water and sanitation operators that demonstrate:

    • • The identification of system vulnerabilities — risk assessment
    • • The planning of adaptation measures
    • • The implementation of those measures as well as
    • • The cross-sectoral integration at city level of these measures
    • • Vertical integration into National Level (NDCs)

    Featured speakers and participants:
    Hamburg Wasser, Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, OSSE Mar del Plata, VEI

    Managing and responding to natural disasters in a changing climate

    #ManagingCrisis · #ClimateAdaptation

    Water and sanitation utilities and the communities they serve are increasingly suffering the effects of climate and weather hazards. Utilities are particularly under stress due to significant losses and damages to infrastructure, water sources, supply, and quality, while urban populations grow rapidly and water demand increases. These climatic changes also put utility workers at risk of heat-related illness and other physical and mental conditions.

    Water and sanitation utilities are developing adaptation and emergency strategies to address current and future climate and weather threats. In this session, utilities from different regions will showcase how they are developing such response mechanisms and what are the lessons learnt.

    The aim of this session is to share how utilities are responding to weather and climate change challenges, to contribute to and benefit from lessons learnt and good practices for present and future challenges and inspire the wider water and sanitation professional community.

    Featured speakers and participants:
    CAWASA, National Water Resources Association, VEI, UNDRR, WaterLinks

    “Leapfrogging” or treading water? How Utilities are embracing the circular economy paradigm in the South and North, and how to pick up the pace


    This session will look at examples of the ‘circular economy’ paradigm being adopted by water and sanitation operators in different contexts. It will discuss how the imperative to reduce and reuse water and related energy and material resources is changing water and sanitation utilities’ modus operandi - their economic models, structure, governance and collaborations. The session will explore the challenges and opportunities for leaping forward.

    Learning: why are circular pathways needed and worthwhile for utilities? What approaches are utilities using? What works well where and why and how can they do it?

    WOPs: where are the champions, tools and other resources to expedite adoption of circular approaches? How can GWOPA promote and support transitions (knowledge, advocacy, funding, networks…)? What examples and opportunities for WOPs on this topic?

    Featured speakers and participants:
    Aqua Publica Europa, Bonn Water Network, German Development Institute, Utilities from India, Ghana, Morocco

    Nature as Critical Infrastructure: operators looking beyond the pipes

    #CircularDevelopment · #ClimateAdaptation

    Source water protection is often a neglected aspect of water provision. With all the competing demands of managing a water system, engineers often look no further than the intake pipe. This session will explore strategies that water operators use to collaborate with upstream actors to source clean water and steward the watershed. We will hear from 3 water operators as they describe successes and challenges.

    Learning: How are utilities saving money and strengthening resilience by investing in their critical green infrastructure? What social, financial, technical and regulatory mechanisms are they using? What collaborations are essential? Where are the champions, tools and other resources for utilities to move beyond the pipes?

    Featured speakers and participants:
    Water Commons. Hydroconseil, Aqua Publica Europea. IWMI. Hamburg Wasser. VEI. Meta Meta

    Water cut-offs / service extensions #ManagingCrises · #AccessForAll

    The current health crisis has confronted water and sanitation utilities with outstanding challenges and responsibilities. Particularly in these difficult times, operators have had the duty to fulfil their mission to ensure and expand service, as well as to adapt rapidly to the situation.

    These efforts have required immediate organizational and operational measures: from the setup of crisis units and development of emergency strategies to adaptation to a permanently evolving, uncertain situation.

    This session brings together utility actors and partners from all regions to share their experiences and responses to COVID-19 to build on and compare to the contributions from water and sanitation professionals and operators of the 2020 Utilities Fight COVID campaign and webinar series.

    Share on how utilities are responding and managing the COVID-19 challenges in different fronts, and inspire the wider water and sanitation professional community.

    Featured speakers and participants:
    Water Youth Parliament for Water, PDAM Surya Sembada Kota Surabaya, SuSanA/GIZ, Aguas de Siguatepeque, Municipal Services Project

    Operators dealing with the post-pandemic landscape of water financing

    #ManagingCrises · #Finance

    A growing number of Water Operators Partnerships have the explicit aim of increasing access to services in underprivileged communities. How is this working out? In this session, Low-income area coordinators from WaterWorX and other WOP initiatives will speak to their experience and engage in a connection with Northern-hemisphere resource managers on their perspectives and approach to the shared topic of how to reach the poorest and most vulnerable end users in a service area.

    Learning Objectives: how can utilities help one another reach informal settlements and, in particular, the most vulnerable groups within them? What are the strengths and limitations of WOPs in bridging access to the hardest to serve?

    Featured speakers and participants:
    WWX, SIP, Wateraid

  • WOP-focused Sessions

    Beyond Operators: the value of involving other organizations in WOP activities


    At their core, WOPs are partnerships between water utilities, however other types of organizations can enrich these partnerships greatly. NGOs, researchers, unions and others can complement WOP activities and thus bring more success to WOPs, e.g. addressing customers in a non-conventional way or gender aspects.

    What can NGOs, Unions, researchers and other non-utility partners bring to WOPs?
    The objective of this session is to better understand what role non-utility partners might bring to WOPs? What can these non-utility types add that we cannot.

    Featured speakers and participants:
    Hamburg Wasser, PSI, ILO, Viva con Agua, HanseWasser Bremen, e-Thikwini Water and Sanitation

    WOP Chef: Recipes for Enabling Water Operators’ Partnerships in Europe and Beyond

    #Governance · #Finance

    Europe is home to thousands of water and sanitation operators who could help their struggling peers to improve. But becoming a WOP mentor requires more than goodwill. This session will look at the political, financial and organizational instruments that can substantially boost water utilities’ – from Europe and elsewhere – participation in these high-value partnerships.

    This event will present inspirational and practical examples from different European countries on how to build strong participation in WOPs. It will allow utilities, financiers and other decision makers to see the value of engaging their utilities, funds and policies in support of this practice and show them how to do it. It will also initiate the European WOP Enablers Task Force, a community of governments, operators, financiers and NGOs keen on boosting WOPs support from Europe.

    Featured speakers and participants:
    VEI, GIZ, EU

    Use the TAP for water: Utilities improving services with Transparency, Accountability and Participation innovations


    Utilities, as public service providers, are counted upon to uphold key values. But key principles, like Transparency, Accountability and Participation are also key to efficient and inclusive operations. How are sanitation and water utilities around the world interpreting and realizing these values in their provision of public services? What are the innovative approaches they are using to be more effective duty bearers on the SDGs and Human Rights?

    Why are exercising TAP principles essential to reaching the SDGs and how do you do it? Where are the inspirational cases that could be studied and emulated?
    The session is meant to inspire and inform utility good practice on TAP principles in watsan service provision.

    Featured speakers and participants:
    Water Integrity Network, Eau de Paris, Swiss water Hub, PSI

    An Investor’s lens to WOPs - the comparative advantage of a WOP


    Financial linkages of WOPs

    • 1. WOPs and investments financial link analysis of different cases.
    • 2. Funding models and funding leverage in WOPs.
    • 3. Role and perspective of existing and potential WOP funders and financiers.

    The aim of this session is to look at WOPs with a lens of old and new funders and investors and learn about different expectations and unrealized potential. The session will bring together established and more recent WOP funders and investors, showcasing the way from WOPs to utility financing and how WOPs can make a case for investors.

    Featured speakers and participants:
    WaterWorX, European Investment Bank but also national/public banks, Univ of London, Colegio de Mexico, IHE

    The transformative journey of knowledge in a WOP, from need to impact


    How do specific improvement needs translate into well-functioning working routines? what is the role of knowledge? What is the role of partners? What are the typical obstacles encountered? How far can new knowledge go? The aim of this session is to illustrate the dynamics that take place between partners in WOPs to jointly transform specific water operator needs into improved working routines.The roles of each partner, the common obstacles encountered as well as key elements observed for the knowledge journey to be successful will be addressed through the presentation of WOP cases. An initial theoretical framework will be presented and cases will be presented to show how far knowledge went into impact in each case, as well as the main obstacles identified.

    Featured speakers and participants:
    IHE, VEI, WaterAid

    WOPs´ monitoring. What for? And How?


    The session will help reflect on the practice of WOPs’ monitoring for learning, adapting and accountability. GWOPA will introduce the topic of WOPs monitoring and discuss the main approaches to monitoring, its value and limitations. Several speakers will then present a particular application of a monitoring practice in WOPs and lessons learned will be discussed. Finally, GWOPA will present a tailor-made WOPs Monitoring Framework and the web-based WOP Planning, Monitoring, and Reporting platform for partners to easily monitoring and reporting.

    WOPs´data management for more and better WOPs


    The session will help reflect on WOP data management practices and needs. GWOPA, WOP platforms and WOP programmes will discussion how WOPs´data and knowledge is produced and managed. Together key actors will discuss data and knowledge needs, and avenues for collaboration. GWOPA will present the Global WOPs Observatory as a joint- initiative by GWOPA and IHE, in collaboration with a consultative group of key stakeholders in the sector, that will work to ensure that WOPs data and knowledge works for a higher impact of WOPs Globally. As a core part of the Global WOPs Observatory GWOPA will present the WOP´s Portal, an integrated database for WOPs practice and its functionalities for Programmes and Platforms users, among others.

  • #OPERATORsSTAGE events

    Peer Learning exchanges (tentative)

    • — Improving customer satisfaction through WOPs
    • — How do we measure the impact of expanded services?
    • — Asset Management
    • — Integrity

    Deep-dive Events (tentative)

    • — Sanitation workers under the Spotlight
    • — Small ‘local’ Operator in Asia
    • — Small-scale operators in LAC

    Training Events (tentative)

    • — The economic level of water losses - What level is your target?
    • — Training on disaster response
  • Side events

    1. SDG 6.3.1. Monitoring

    There is to date an overall lack of precise knowledge about the global volumes of wastewater generated and treated, and wastewater statistics are in an early stage of development in many countries and not regularly produced and/or reported. SDG indicator 6.3.1 on “proportion of domestic and industrial wastewater flow safely treated” gives opportunity to draw attention to why countries ought to be compiling wastewater statistics for the benefit of providing better services for their citizens. If a country lacks national targets for the safe treatment of wastewater, monitoring of 6.3.1 is also a good opportunity to develop these.

    Introduce SDG Indicator 6.3.1 monitoring methodology and updated information about the status of global monitoring paired with discussion around water utilities effective measurement and monitoring of collected and treated wastewater being essential to inform management decisions and investments at the local level.

    2. Professional networks to support access

    There is an increasing number of WOP projects being implemented (I.e. WWX and EU WOPs, BMZ WOPs Programme, others). Most of them face similar challenges and usually find ways of addressing them that could benefit beyond the individual project. This session will discuss experiences of sharing beyond WOPs individual projects, through the creation of a water professionals network committed to universal access to safe water and sanitation services for water professionals that are willing to benefit and to contribute. The experience of GWOPA with piloting an online community, and the WWX Programme will be shared, including testimonies from different COP facilitators, and participants in these online communities. The session will conclude with the launch of the water professional’s online community hosted by GWOPA with the participation of numerous actors in the water sector.

    3. Enabling environment for female operators


makes the WOPs Congress different

United by solidarity

United by solidarity

Water Operators’ Partnership and other not-for-profit peer support exchanges will take center stage.

The Congress is a moment for the GWOPA network and new partners to come together around a shared commitment to helping each.



The WOPs Congress has been designed in close consultation with a Congress Taskforce (public operators, WOPs facilitators, donors, workers’ unions and civil society organisations) to ensure it shines a light on real actions, impact, and opportunity to increase progress on Sustainable Development Goal 6.

A focus on operator staff

A focus on operator staff

WOPs support operator staff to do their job better and they are happening all over the world.

The Congress will bring together hundreds of operator staff to tell their stories, learn from each other and inspire individual and collective action.

Moving towards sustainable access for all

Moving towards sustainable access for all

The Congress is convened by the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance – a diverse network largely made up of public water and sanitation operators along with their partners.

Participation is free of charge and open to all organisations and individuals with an interest in sustainable water and sanitation.


Why participate?

LEARN: Contribute to and benefit from collective knowledge on peer-to-peer partnerships and the work of water operators.

SHARE: Strengthen or build new partnerships and exchange experiences with water operators and their partners.

INSPIRE... and GET INSPIRED!: Expand support for water operators and peer-to-peer learning amongst relevant stakeholders and the general public

Participation has no cost and online participation will allow everyone to take part.


Who will be there?

Stakeholders from all walks of life who support public water and sanitation utilities, including national, sub-national and local governments, donors and financial institutions, knowledge and academic institutions, multi-lateral organizations, civil society organizations, workers unions, water regulators and business.

For those new to WOPs and GWOPA, the Congress is an opportunity to interact with a global network of actors committed to solidarity and peer support in the water and sanitation space.



The event is convened by GWOPA in its host city in Bonn.

Online participation will allow alliance partners, members and newcomers to participate.

Networking and e-socialising events will be organised to connect different individuals across the globe and build new partnerships and synergies.

Registration will open in June 2021.

What's next?

What's next?

The call for Expressions of Interest is now open - submit your proposal here - until 30 April.

Successful applicants will be contacted in June.

Registration will open in June 2021

The programme will be released in September

Stay up to date



Participation in the Congress has no fee and is open to everyone.

Register here!