Please briefly describe the initiative, what issue or challenge it aims to address and specify its objectives. (300 words maximum)
Water is essential to human life. Access to clean water is a fundamental right for everyone. Since 1999, the Faculty of Public Health, Mahidol University, has guaranteed that the water in the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA) areas of responsibility is potable. However, the water usage behavior shows that most people do not use water directly from the taps, but through water tanks, water purifiers or cold-water dispensers. According to the water quality analysis data from the laboratory of MWA’s Water Quality Department, E.coli contaminations are frequently found. One of the main reasons is the lack of proper knowledge and attention in the maintenance of these equipment, causing water quality deterioration and affecting health, such as causing diarrhea and even death. MWA is aware of the problems and concerns about the health of over 12 million people, especially children, patients, the impoverished, the neglected and underprivileged people, who are sensitive to water quality, and are more likely to get sick than general people. The MWA, has consequently created a project to provide water quality inspection services for free at least once a year, and guides on how to clean water tanks properly and provide recommendations to annually clean them at various sites or organizations in order to promote good sanitation for people by providing clean, safe and affordable drinking water at all times. The objectives are: 1) To equitably improve the water quality after being supplied to customers for all water user groups 2) To let everyone, even the impoverished and underprivileged, have access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water.
Please explain how the initiative is linked to the selected category. (100 words maximum)
The “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water for All in the Metropolitan Area of Thailand” project is aligned with the category on Delivering inclusive and equitable services for all because MWA dispatches its professional scientists to the service areas to analyze and guarantee on-site water quality, where people use the water, thoroughly and equitably, for all groups of water users. It also provides advice on how to correctly use clean and safe water so that people of all groups can have access to clean water.
a. Please specify which SDGs and target(s) the initiative supports and describe concretely how the initiative has contributed to their implementation. (200 words maximum)
The project contributes to “Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation” under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), sub-goal 6.1: Goals for universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all and 6.2: Goals for access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all. Although MWA has a primary duty to supply clean and adequate quality tap water to the people in the metropolitan area, it is found that people in many areas still do not have access to quality tap water that meets the World Health Organization standards due to E.coli contamination often found in water tanks, water purifiers or cold water dispensers, which mostly lack proper maintenance. MWA has therefore initiated this project as a proactive after-meter services, including providing water quality inspection services on water tanks, water purifiers and water dispensers, giving advice on water quality and how to clean water tanks in order to thoroughly give people access to clean and safe drinking water, which promotes equal hygiene to people in all areas.
b. Please describe what makes the initiative sustainable in social, economic and environmental terms. (100 words maximum)
Most people understand that MWA is responsible for only supplying clean water only up until the water meter. In fact, people commonly use water through water tanks, purifiers or dispensers where the water quality cannot be monitored by MWA. This project is a proactive operation to maintain the quality of on-site water and encourage the participation among government, private sector and the public. The government (MWA) provides methods for monitoring water quality and communicates them through various channels to raise awareness in maintaining the cleanliness of water tanks and related equipment and reduce the need to buy bottled water which helps reduce plastic waste.
a. Please explain how the initiative has addressed a significant shortfall in governance, public administration or public service within the context of a given country or region. (200 words maximum)
Historically, it is found that many patients contracted diarrhea due to consuming water contaminated with E.coli from water tanks, water purifiers and water dispensers from schools and hospitals in Bangkok. From WHO references, it appeared that many people got sick from consuming water contaminated with bacteria. For example, the incident of contaminated water with Salmonella sp. bacteria in Gideon, Missouri, USA, in 1993; the incident of contaminated water with E.coli and Campylobacter sp. bacteria in Walkerton, Ontario, Canada in 2000. Although Thailand has not yet officially conducted an epidemiological investigation, in order to prevent and reduce the risk that may arise from the contamination of E.coli in water tanks and related equipment, this project strengthens the public awareness to put an importance on maintaining the cleanliness of household water supply systems for good sanitation. It also reduces the cost of medical treatment from the government for patients, caused by contaminated water, which is a long-term burden.
b. Please describe how your initiative addresses gender inequality in the country context. (100 words maximum)
Thailand rarely has gender inequality. For this project, people of all ages, especially children, patients, impoverished, neglected and underprivileged people, have equal access to clean water without discrimination. MWA’s scientists will visit the service areas to meet with the public to check the water quality and to advise on how to correctly maintain and clean water tanks and related equipment.
c. Please describe who the target group(s) were, and explain how the initiative improved outcomes for these target groups. (200 words maximum)
The target groups are mainly categorized by the water quality-checked sites: (I) Children and youths (school, university); (II) Patients (hospitals, public health centers) because these two groups are the most susceptible and vulnerable to water quality and have lower immunity than general people. Only a small amount of contaminated water can result in illness; (III) Underprivileged and impoverished groups such as inmates, elderly, orphaned children (prisons, foster homes). These groups often do not have the opportunity to have proper sanitation; and (IV) general public (government, housing estate) which is an important resource that drives the country. As MWA has continuously monitored water quality for over 10 years, the results of water quality analysis show that in the fiscal year of 2009, the water supply after being sent to customers met the WHO quality guidelines at 91.61 percent. In the past fiscal year of 2019, the water quality after being sent to customers met the recommended criteria, rising to 96.84 percent, which showed that these groups received improved clean water.
a. Please describe how the initiative was implemented including key developments and steps, monitoring and evaluation activities, and the chronology. (300 words)
Since 1999, the Faculty of Public Health, Mahidol University, has guaranteed clean and potable water supply in Bangkok and its vicinity. Later in 2000, MWA began to check the water quality after being sent to customers because people often complain about the turbidity, or foreign substances in the water supply, or causing diarrhea. Therefore, MWA sent its scientists to inspect the water quality, found the causes and solved the problems, to about 100 sites per year, focusing on the groups of water users that are schools and hospitals. After that, the project was expanded to other locations. Since 2001, there have been a total of 2,354 inspected sites. In addition, from 2014-2016, Road Show activities were initiated to promote knowledge about water quality to children and youths in schools and universities. Moreover, since 2017, a team of ‘Scientists in White’ has been formed in order to transfer knowledge and understanding to people, and solve the problems related to water usage. The operation starts from specifying the target groups, focusing on the group that are sensitive to water quality and the underprivileged. The scientists or water sampling staff collected water samples at the sites of the specified target group from the service pipe, water tanks, water purifiers or cold water dispenser, then analyzing them in the laboratory. The analyzed items are Free residual chlorine, Turbidity, Color, pH, Conductivity, Total Dissolved Solid (TDS), and E.coli. Then they submit a water quality test report and give advice in case the water quality does not meet the standard. After that, the report will be sent back to the examined sites for improvement. After the improvement, MWA will check the water quality again, at least once a year.
b. Please clearly explain the obstacles encountered and how they were overcome. (100 words)
Some sites do not allow to check water quality as they are afraid of losing reputation if the results are bad. Therefore, MWA has to clarify that MWA comes to help improve water quality. Some users lack the knowledge and awareness about water tank and equipment maintenance. Some still have false beliefs from fake news such as the dangers of chlorine in tap water, and that using tap water to cook rice can cause carcinogens. Moreover, people still lack communication channels; so, the white scientist operation becomes a direct channel to check water quality and give knowledge to the people.
a. Please explain in what ways the initiative is innovative in the context of your country or region. (100 words maximum)
Firstly, the conceptual framework of this project is to go to the sites to check the water quality for people such as faucets in the kitchen, water purifiers, cold water dispensers, etc., which is considered a social service innovation, responding to Social Responsibility. Secondly, MWA gives advice and guidance on how to correctly clean and maintain water tanks to various sites, especially the groups that are sensitive to water quality. This results in letting these people have more access to clean water.
b. Please describe, if relevant, how the initiative drew inspiration from successful initiative in other regions, countries and localities. (100 words maximum)
The project “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water for All in the Metropolitan Area of Thailand” was inspired by an example from developed countries such as Japan and Korea, where people are confident to drink tap water from various sites. However, people in Bangkok, the capital city of the country, still lack confidence in MWA’s tap water. MWA, therefore, has to elevate its service for all groups of people to build confidence and to be able to have clean water that is free from E.coli at all locations.
a. Has the initiative been transferred and/or adapted to other contexts (e.g. other cities, countries or regions) to your organization’s knowledge? If yes, please explain where and how. (200 words maximum)
The knowledge from this work is practical and can be adapted in other works in different contexts. For example, the knowledge from the water quality tests and household water supply systems has been transferred to other agencies and covers those within MWA’s area of responsibility and those external. For the first group, road show events have been held at many schools and universities to educate students about water quality. For those external areas, water quality monitoring trainings have been held in many socioeconomic cities such as Chiang Mai, Udonthani and Songkhla. In addition, this work has been presented at the 9th International Young Water Professional Conference, Canada under the topic of Scientist in White Operation, a road to build trust in tap water in Bangkok, Thailand.
b. If not yet transferred/adapted to other contexts, please describe the potential for transferability. (200 words maximum)
a. What specific resources (i.e. financial, human or others) were used to implement the initiative? (100 words maximum)
The budget of this project, approximately 7 million baht/year, is allocated from CSR Budget. The budget was spent for water quality monitoring activities, public relations activities and water quality education. Apart from financial resources, many human resources were invested in this project, not only scientists, but also engineers, administrative officers, public relations officers and public health officers, under the supervision of MWA executives. All of these people had important roles throughout the project.
b. Please explain what makes the initiative sustainable over time, in financial and institutional terms. (100 words maximum)
The key to achieve long term accomplishment is to provide correct information to people, and to raise people’s awareness about the importance of self-monitoring water quality. Apart from that, to emphasize the importance of water quality, MWA has added this project in its annual action plan and has mentioned the importance of water quality in one of MWA’s missions “Improve people’s quality of life by expanding water services and social responsibility” and in MWA’s value “QWATER, Willingness, Achievement, Team, Excellent Service, Respect to Transparency and Quality”.
a. Was the initiative formally evaluated either internally or externally?
b. Please describe how it was evaluated and by whom? (100 words maximum)
The project’s effectiveness has been evaluated by surveying people’s opinions and recommendations. The important information from the surveys are people’s opinion towards the project and companies/organizations that may be affected by water quality instability. In addition, water quality data are collected in MWA’s database.
c. Please describe the indicators and tools used. (100 words maximum)
Peoples’ satisfaction score in ‘Good Level’ was more than 80% with more than 2,000 places joining this project. Each year, at least 90% of these places must retake the water quality test and they have to score more than 90%, according to WHO Guidelines value for drinking-water quality.
d. What were the main findings of the evaluation (e.g. adequacy of resources mobilized for the initiative, quality of implementation and challenges faced, main outcomes, sustainability of the initiative, impacts) and how this information is being used to inform the initiative’s implementation. (200 words maximum)
The result of satisfaction score in ‘Good Level’ of the participants is 94.08%. There are more than 2,354 places joining this project, which is over estimated. The samples comprise children 1,171 places (49.75%), patients 203 places (8.62%), impoverished and underprivileged 324 places (13.76%) and general people 656 places (27.87%). Each year, these places have retaken the water quality test with more than 90% of targets every year. Since 2009 to present, as the water quality test results from water tanks, water purifiers and cold-water dispensers complied with WHO’s drinking water standards had to score more than 90% marks, the results indicated that the water quality met the standard higher than 90% was 100%. As the test scores tend to increase every year, it is shown that clean, safe and affordable water is more accessible to people. Providing clean and safe water is not a passive measure to deal with the people’s health problems; in fact, this is truly the preventive action to reduce people’s health problems and health-related budget. Moreover, based from data acquired, MWA has initiated the Clean Water Tank Project (free of charge) and has implemented at more than 72 schools during the pilot stage.
Please describe how the initiative strives to work in an integrated manner within its institutional landscape – for example, how does the initiative work horizontally and/or vertically across different levels of government? (200 words maximum)
MWA has gained great collaboration from target places, which are communities, schools, hospitals, prisons, local administrative organizations and foster homes. These agencies have granted permission to MWA to monitor their water quality and they willingly take action according to MWA’s recommendation when water quality is below the standard. Further to this project, some agencies have also taken water quality results from MWA to qualify for other environmental standards such as HA, HACCP, FDA and Local Performance Assessment (LPA) in order to raise their service level to international standards and reduce people’s health problems caused by low quality water. In addition, the Department of Health, Ministry of Public Health, Bangkok Public Health Office, Nonthaburi Provincial Public Health Office and Samut Prakarn Provincial Public Health Office have also taken action to prevent and solve health-related issues.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts emphasis on collaboration, engagement, partnerships, and inclusion. Please describe which stakeholders were engaged in designing, implementing and evaluating the initiative and how this engagement took place. (200 words maximum)
MWA has heard public opinions and problems through community committee meetings, held monthly by District offices and municipalities. Many agencies have also attended the meetings such as hospitals, electricity authority, Office of the Non-Formal and Informal Education, Council of Cultural Affairs, community leaders, police stations and fire stations. The information from the meetings have been used to plan stakeholder engagement activities such as cleaning water tanks in schools, consultation services to hospitals about chlorine feed system installation and water quality tests in prisons. In addition, the World Health Organization South-East Asia Regional Office (WHO SEARO) in collaboration with MWA has held meetings to exchange opinions about water quality monitoring and Water Safety Plan (WSP) assessment systems at service points.
Please describe the key lessons learned, and how your organization plans to improve the initiative. (200 words maximum)
From project implementation, people tend to pay more attention to water tank and water purifier maintenance as they are aware that this could reduce health problems caused by unclean water. However, most of the underprivileged are incapable to do so due to their limited resources. Therefore, MWA has taken action by initiating the water tank cleaning project for hospitals, prisons, foster homes and many communities. The project is free of charge. However, this project could not be done by the MWA alone, as it needs a lot of resources. Therefore, MWA has sought collaboration with many agencies such as the Army, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, municipalities and local administration organizations. In addition, MWA has found that a lot of people still misunderstand about clean water quality due to fake news and rumors, for example, chlorinated tap water is harmful to health. In order to correct the misunderstanding, MWA has provided correct information through more communication channels to make sure that it will reach all groups of people.