New IHE Delft course addresses knowledge gap on finance in the water sector

Written by Ewoud Kok, on 8 November 2021

A strong water sector that is secure and sustainable requires investments. Finding financing for such investments can be a challenge, with difficulties delaying or hindering development. A new four-day IHE Delft course aims to help water professionals overcome obstacles by broadening their understanding of the many facets of water investment financing.

Course coordinator Dr Yong Jiang at IHE Delft said the course, which was held for the first time in July 2021, is designed to help fill the knowledge and capacity gap in the critical financing aspect of water development and management.

“This gap prevails across countries but has not been addressed by existing water-related education and training programs across the globe. This course covers key concepts, theory, and practical knowledge related to water investment financing to help participants develop skills to fill the gap,” he said.  

Course participant Nenad Pantic, a Hydraulic Engineer from Serbia with over 15 years of experience in the water sector in Serbia and the Middle East, described how he experiences this capacity gap: “We can find engineers who are good at their job, and very experienced people in the financial area, but it is not easy to find a link between these two sectors,” he said, adding that this leads to problems.  “We always come to the main question of who funds it and how it will be funded. And this is the point where everything is clogged.”

Better understanding of innovative financing mechanisms

The course focuses on four themes: water investment needs and challenges, economics of water finance, financial resources and bankability, financial instruments and innovations, and practices for engaging business and investors.

Course participant Frank Tibben, Senior Asset Manager for Waternet, a water cycle company in the greater Amsterdam region, and Program Manager for its international non-profit organization, World Waternet, joined the course to gain a better understanding of innovative financing mechanisms so that he can create more impact.

“Focus areas in my work, like climate adaptation, circular economy, digitalization, energy transition and the overarching Sustainable Development Goals, ask for a strong multi-disciplinary approach where public and private organizations are brought together and innovate in the way they finance their investments,” he said. “For public water organizations, it is essential to connect these disciplines and work towards overall financial sustainable impact on the long term.”

The course combines lectures with a demanding group assignment, in which participants develop a financial plan for a water project of their choice. Participants define and characterize investment needs, identify finance, build a financial plan, and discuss strategies to engage businesses for implementation. The participants in the July course, held online, chose to work on projects ranging from drinking water supply to flood risk management.

It became clear that bridging the financial gap in the water sector is crucial to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.
Frank Tibben
Course participant

Mr Tibben said the variety of practical examples shared by course lecturers from knowledge institutes as well as public, private and non-governmental organizations benefitted participants. “They offered an in-depth insight in the important field of financing investments. It became clear that bridging the financial gap in the water sector is crucial to reach the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.  “The water sector is still seen as high-risk for investors, compared to, for example, the energy sector. The course supports in making this quite abstract topic more practical for professionals like myself.”

To learn about upcoming courses – if Covid-19 restrictions permit, to l be held at the IHE Delft campus in the Netherlands - please visit the course page: www.un-ihe.org/financing-water-investments-water-professionals

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