Vietnam taps into Singleton’s skills and expertise in development of water infrastructure

Singleton is playing an international role to help raise the standard of water infrastructure and drinking water after being chosen to be part of a water utility exchange program with Vietnam facilitated by the Australian Water Association.

Staff from Singleton Council’s water and sewer services team will travel to Vietnam to work with the Nghe An Rural Water Supply and Environment Joint Stock Company, a rural water utility serving about 8,800 customers with 12 staff, with the first trip slated for later this year. Conversely, staff from Council’s Vietnamese partner utility will also travel to Singleton to investigate our water and sewer infrastructure. Funded by the Australian Government, the Vietnam-Australia Water Utility Improvement Program (WUIP) is part of a suite of activities run by the Australian Water Association (AWA) and the National Centre for Rural Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation (NCERWASS), to achieve breakthroughs in vital areas of water supply and resources management, attain the Sustainable Development Goals and meet the Government of Vietnam’s objectives for water.

The WUIP helps water utilities improve service coverage and delivery, financial sustainability, and other aspects of their performance. Mark Ihlein, Council’s Director Planning and Infrastructure Services, said the exchange program was an exciting opportunity for Singleton to have a direct role in the development of water infrastructure in communities around the globe. “Council staff will do at least three short exchanges with our partner utility in Vietnam, and Vietnamese water staff will come over to visit us and our infrastructure as part of the program to share knowledge and learn about new ways of doing things,” he said.

“This is a great opportunity to see the challenges that other organisations face, as well as experience how they are making things happen in their context. “There may be vast differences between the circumstances in Singleton and those in Vietnam, but there may also be similarities and the opportunity for collaboration that can benefit both sides.”

The Government of Vietnam has set a range of targets for Vietnamese water utilities for the next few years, including the achievement of drinking water standards by 2020. Mr Ihlein said selection in the exchange program was open to regional water utilities that could commit people resources and time to assisting a sister water utility.

“It’s can be easy for us to forget that services such as water and sewer are still a luxury in many parts of the world, and as we know with the drought we’re currently experiencing, water resources should never be taken for granted,” he said. “To be chosen to be part of this program is a great opportunity for our staff and due recognition for their hard work in providing a high standard of water and sewer infrastructure in Singleton. “It’s also reassurance for our community that although we are a relatively small utility, we are setting industry standards in our approach to water and sewer services while maintaining charges that are among the lowest in the Hunter.”