Water coops 2021: Water services and sewerage development work is carried out in wide-ranging cooperation

Thanks to new tools, asset management is becoming routine for all water utilities companies. The annual investments of Finnish water supply facilities are 400 million euros. It is a large amount, but still not enough, as the amount should be approximately EUR 770 million. This is clear from the State of Built Assets ROTI 2021 report, which examines the current state of the built environment and future needs.

It has been downright necessary to invest in wastewater treatment for the past decades. The investment has begun to be reflected in the reduction of investment needs for treatment plants. In domestic water production and distribution, there is still a need to allocate resources to water treatment plants, but the biggest need for renovations is still on the network side.

Asset management and owner control of water services and sewerage is already being talked about quite a lot at the facilities and among experts in the field. In many facilities, asset management is a daily routine with restructuring plans and investment programs based on the right information.

Tools have been developed for asset management, with which even smaller institutions can easily determine the overall picture of their property and its value, as well as find objects to be renovated. The tools lead to better asset management. In turn, the material produced by the tools can be used in addition to restructuring planning, for example in mergers.

National water services reform to the implementation phase

National Water Services Reform, which started in 2020, is now in the implementation planning phase. One of the goals of the project led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is the development of regional cooperation and the promotion of structural change. The purpose is also to identify the obstacles to structural change, for example by conducting surveys of cooperative operators, and to find out the real possibilities of different forms of cooperation and organization.

It is particularly important that the means of cooperation and regional development are not black and white and that there are no attempts to force them into destinations they are not suitable for. Our water supply field is still versatile. That’s why solutions should be sought with a range of different measures, according to the needs of each institution and region.

Strategies into practice

During 2021, the water service and sewerage strategies for western, eastern, and southern Finland have been completed. They have experimented with large-area cooperation to develop water supply, improve cooperation and share information.  

The Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment has been responsible for coordinating water service and sewerage strategies, but a large number of water supply experts from large institutions, cooperatives, other companies, associations, research institutes, educational institutions and authorities have also participated in the work.

The voice of water cooperatives has been heard at stakeholder meetings when several individual water cooperatives from different regions have participated. The Association of Finnish Water Cooperatives (SVOSK) has also held the flag high on behalf of all cooperatives. Water managers, who act as communicators from several cooperatives, have also been visible in the work.

The strategies have emphasized the importance of cooperation and raising the value of water services and sewerage. Water services and sewerage have received much-needed additional recognition, albeit due to the unfortunate events of recent years. The corona pandemic brought a completely new perspective to the sensitive service from the point of view of securing the continuity of the entire process.

In addition, as a result of the war in Ukraine, operational reliability of the water supply has become even more important. Digital security issues have received special attention in the national debate. These issues have also been brought up more strongly than before in regional water service and sewage strategies.

Water and sewage as a critical service requires even more detailed preparation for unforeseen future scenarios and deserves better understanding and appreciation from us all. Crises always result in something new and empowering, such as new ways of working and innovations.

Piia Kepanen
The a member of Cooperative Magazine’s Yearbook analyst team

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