Water and sanitation infrastructure, is the end of ownership near?

Successful IRC-VIA water event with Thomas Rau, 25 May 2016


Thomas Rau and Catarina FonsecaYesterday VIA Water and IRC organised a very inspirational session with Thomas Rau, a renowned speaker, innovator, visionary and thinker on the topics of the end of property and the circular economy. He stated that ‘if we want to change things we have to change the business model’. The situation we are in now is an ‘organised problem’, we need a new economic model, a value creation chain. We have to look at material as a ‘service’.

Sustainability is optimizing the system but we need to change the system first. The worst thing that could happen is that we would get an agreement – that we agreed on what is possible and not on what is necessary. Circularity is the new hype but it is not the goal according to Rau. Waste is material without identity (no identity is a problem) and ownership is responsibility - that can become too complex.

According to Catarina Fonseca (IRC), the discussant of the event, the concept of ‘the end of ownership’ is interesting for WASH services because it is part of the solution:

  • For the required large upfront lump sum infrastructure requirements and more important ensuring maintenance and sustainability;
  • Saving schemes at community and district level to ensure large bulky unexpected maintenance is simply not working;
  • Pooling infrastructure/density and developing scale for required maintenance.

We are facing a crisis in the WASH sector - maintenance is a problem. Upfront investment is also a problem. The ‘end of property’ model might be a solution for this. To be continued, we will soon share the presentations of Thomas Rau and Catarina Fonseca.