Water and Sewage
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Introduction Important issues Indicators + benchmarks Cross sector links References

Indicators and Benchmarks

Sustainable Indicators
Following the adoption of Agenda 21 at Rio 1992 and the establishment of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, national governments and local authorities have been exhorted to develop and implement Sustainable Indicators.

An indicator refers to a policy-relevant variable that is specified and defined in such a way as to be measurable over time and/or space. It needs to be quantified; measurement can be on the basis of qualitative scales. But the key feature of an indicator is that measurement can take place and this, in turn, allows comparison. Such comparison may take a variety of forms: over time, of one government unit with another, of one project with another, of performance against objectives.

Sustainability Indicators can play a number of different roles, which can be summarised under 3 broad headings:
- Objectives setting: Helping to set sustainable development policy goals
- Technical and managerial:
- Monitoring process towards sustainable development policy goals
- Assessing performance of units
- Informing, planning and decision-making within local authorities
- Public communication and participation:
- Raising awareness, educating and communicating with public
- Encouraging public participation and motivating civic action

Water Performance Indicators
Any undertaking (private or public) needs to strive for high level of efficiency and effectiveness to achieve its management goals. In addition, other stakeholders, such as regulators or customers require assurance that the undertaking is performing appropriately. Increasing diversity in the provision and quality of services for water supply and wastewater disposal necessitate scrutiny using assessment systems that are consistent, transparent and auditable. In that way, a form of standardised performance assessment has become essential.

The Performance Indicators describe the characteristics and the performance of individual features of utility systems. To serve its purpose each indicator must not only be very precisely defined, but also understood and generally accepted internationally.

Indicators use may have several reasons: to assist with strategic planning, to facilitate better quality and responses from managers, to allow monitoring of the effects of management decisions, to provide key information to support a more pro-active approach to management rather than reacting to apparent system malfunctions, to facilitate the implementation of benchmark routines, both internally, for comparing the performance for sub-systems and externally for comparison with other similar undertakings etc.

For more information, please refer to the International Water Association website

IWA Performance Indicators are available on the following website: