08 December 2022 / Vienna, Austria
Utility Benchmarking Program: From a Great '22 to an Exciting '23
Contributed by:
Voice of the Danube
12 December 2022

Performing better and better is the key to being great. Gathering data and comparing benchmarks is the key to performing better and better. This is what the Utility Benchmarking Program (UBP) is about, and at the end of the UBP 2022 cycle we look back on a year of hard, valuable work and forward to more of that - and a meeting in Vienna.

This year saw the coordination and kick off of the 2022 benchmarking cycle handling 2021 data, a Benchmarking and Asset Management Nexus conference and a program with the working title “Benchmarking for Local Authorities”, which aims at creating a condensed benchmarking data format to improve communication and decision-making between utilities and public stakeholders.

In the course of this year's cycle, utility performance data from 2021 are gathered and analysed. Participants are:

  • the Albania & Kosovo Hub, jointly coordinated by SHUKOS, the Water and Wastewater Works Association of Kosovo, and SHUKALB, the Water Supply and Sewerage Association of Albania, currently involving seven water utilities from Kosovo and three from Albania,
  • the Bulgarian Hub, coordinated by the BWA Bulgarian Water Association with to date six water utilities, and
  • the Danube Hub, coordinated by IAWD, currently counting 17 water utilities from the following countries: Albania, Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and Romania.

Sadly, the Ukrainian Hub, coordinated by DWCUKR, the Ukrainian Danube Water Centre, which until 2021 involved 16 water utilities, could not keep up operations during 2022 due to the ongoing situation in Ukraine. We sincerely hope for a quick improvement in the near future.

The UBP saw a busy year:

  • In January, the Danube Hub and the Specialist Group for Benchmarking and Performance Assessment (BPA SG) of the International Water Association (IWA) confirmed their continued cooperation. 
  • Utility Benchmarking Program Coordinators met regularly online to organize the 2022 UBP cycle.
  • On June 30, 2022, IAWD and SHUKALB co-organized the conference “Benchmarking and Asset Management Nexus – Key Tools for Regulators and Decision Makers” in Tirana, Albania, followed by the annual CEO Dinner of the Danube Hub.
  • Late September the Bulgarian Hub organized a three-day study tour to Bucharest, with visits to the Technical University of Bucharest, the Rosu Water Treatment Plant (Apa Nova București), and the Wastewater Treatment Plant Bolintin.
  • In November the Albania and Kosovo Hub held its annual benchmarking workshop in the context of the 10th Balkans Joint Conference and Exhibition.

But maybe the most significant development of 2022 was the implementation of the “Benchmarking for Local Authorities” project. Based on earlier discussions between representatives of IAWD and the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of Southeast Europe (NALAS), it aims at improving the quality of the dialogue between utilities and their mainly public stakeholders by creating a condensed, readable report format to be issued via the IAWD Utility Benchmarking Platform.

IAWD with the support from the Regional Capacity Development Network (RCDN) worked on the project aimed at improving UBP products, so they would specifically enable better communication between the representatives of water companies on one side and representatives of towns and municipalities on the other.

The project builds on cooperation between IAWD, NALAS, pilot local authorities, pilot utilities, and national associations of local authorities and water utilities from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia to create a new benchmarking report format which will present benchmarking data in a highly condensed, easily readable style to support performance improvement planning and effective decision making, both internally within water utilities, and externally, in communication with the competent authorities.

“Benchmarking for Local Authorities” is based on the Water Utility Performance Index, developed by the World Bank under the Danube Water Program, and presented in the State of the Sector report from 2015. In communication with NALAS and other partners from the region, IAWD expands the underlying concept to a fully actionable new approach to benchmarking activities in the Danube region.

2022 was great, and 2023 promises to be exciting starting with the annual benchmarking workshop of the Bulgarian UBP Hub in late January in Velingrad, Bulgaria, and culminating in late May, when the annual UBP Danube Hub events will take place in Vienna, back-to-back with the Danube Wate Conference. 

On 30 May, 2023, just before the start of the conference, which is scheduled until June 2, CEOs and Utility Benchmarking Coordinators from water service companies in the Danube Region will gather for the UBP Workshop and the CEO Dinner organized by the Danube Hub of IAWD under the Utility Benchmarking Program (UBP), discussing and sharing best practises, smart applications of innovations and ways to improve communication with stakeholders.

Utilities interested in proven tools to measure, compare and improve their performance are welcome to join the UBP activities still under the ongoing and also next year's cycle. Review all the details about the program and the application under the links below. The quickest way to become a member of the UBP family is by filling out and submitting the application form to thedanubehub@d-leap.org.