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BECC General Manager takes part in ANEAS Annual Convention’s panel discussion: Capital and Infrastructure Projects for Water Utilities

Posted on January 02, 2017

BECC General Manager takes part in ANEAS Annual Convention’s panel discussion: Capital and Infrastructure Projects for Water Utilities

On November 11, during the last panel discussion of the ANEAS Annual Convention held at the Tijuana Convention Center, Maria Elena Giner, General Manager of the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC), shared the floor with fellow panelists Francisco Gonzalez of BANOBRAS National Infrastructure Fund and Jose Antonio Estrada of Banco Interacciones. The discussion was moderated by Oscar Valencia on behalf of CIAPACOV de Colima.

Throughout her participation, Maria Elena Giner said her organization, BECC, and the North American Development Bank (NADB), “have the privilege of working on both sides of the border, which has given us the experience of learning the best practices of both countries and sharing those experiences.” She said “We have worked hard with our federal and state stakeholders to address the infrastructure backlogs, such as wastewater collection and treatment,” increasing from 25% to more than 90% wastewater coverage over a twenty-year span, “with remarkable results”. This has been achieved with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Mexico´s National Water Commission (CONAGUA).

She underscored that we are now faced with a scenario of less funding for these binational programs and what is apparent in BECC's project portfolio studies is that there are emerging issues connected to current challenges in the area of potable water service, such as high energy use, inadequate user fees, deteriorating equipment and low water efficiency. She concluded that different strategies should be used to make water utility systems more efficient overall.

Jose Antonio Estrada said water is an attractive sector for commercial banks. “Everyone uses it, and it is vital for human subsistence” and therefore, “humans are willing to pay for it.” He said commercial banks “will continue to participate by providing loans and investment funds with capital resources,” and in this regard, “the private sector has a greater participation in the potable water sector.” He reported that investment funds are available under different leverage schemes, including federal grants.

The BANOBRAS National Infrastructure Fund official said this fund successfully supports private-public partnerships in several sectors, including water. He said this assistance advances the sustainability of water utilities by tackling the root causes of inefficiencies with much needed reforms at the national level, incorporating institutional and legal components to make a qualitative leap in the provision of services in terms of both physical and commercial efficiencies, and to improve performance indicators.

All panelists were fairly unanimous in highlighting that the water sector is operating within a scenario of budget cuts. This is also occurring throughout the border with current reductions to established binational funds. This situation forces stakeholders to look for complementary funding options, such as those available in the private sector.

Nonetheless, as pointed out by Maria Elena Giner, studies and long-term planning efforts are required to promote this type of investments. In support of this, water and wastewater master plans substantiated by the work developed by the BECC and NADB “have made it possible to identify needs, review the financial status of utilities, and recommend funding programs for specific tasks.” This, she said, has helped organizations move forward regardless of administration changes.

Additionally, these are planning tools that support private sector investments “that can fill the gap created by funding cuts.” Finally, she said these are elements that should also be supplemented by institutional capacity building in the areas of finance, governance, and technical training.




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