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Juan Pablo Espinosa at INVESTAGUA: "Quito needs $900 million to clean up its rivers"

  • Juan Pablo Espinosa at INVESTAGUA: "Quito needs $900 million to clean up its rivers"
  • INVESTAGUA, an on-line event held between April 12 and April 23, brought together senior officials from public authorities responsible for integrated water cycle management.

Juan Pablo Espinosa, General Manager of EPMAPS - Agua De Quito, participated in a session on Investment Plans in Latin American Cities during INVESTAGUA, held on Wednesday April 21.

Juan Pablo Espinosa outlined the investments planned to maintain and build new water infrastructure in Quito.

He started saying that the pandemic "has shown us that people have to go back to the basics.  Basic services are more important than ever". He explained that the world has two challenges after the pandemic: food and water.

Concerning water challenges in Latin America, he noted that in Latin America there are 40 million people without access to drinking water, and 125 million without access to sanitation. He thinks we should "focus on sanitation, because it is linked to improving people's quality of life". Moreover, "COVID has demonstrated we have to give citizens a better quality of life, and water is essential for that".

He continued talking about the Quito metropolitan district: with 2.7 million people, it is the most populous area in Ecuador. A large part of the population is urban. He explained next that Quito has a wealth of natural resources, with abundant water resources coming from the Andes and the eastern rivers, but also deals with the complexity of being at a high elevation. In fact, urban growth does not happen building higher, but rather it occupies the mountain sides, where the elevation makes it difficult to provide drinking water services. "We are always nearly reaching 100% coverage in terms of drinking water services but there are always some spots where service is lacking, and urban expansion takes place faster than the investments we can make", said Juan Pablo Espinosa. "We are achieving one of the most ambitious goals which is bringing water from the Amazon, always compensating the affected communities, something which will allow us to secure water availability until 2050", he said.

Concerning drinking water production, Agua de Quito produces 225 million cubic meters per year, and generates 22,10 megawatts of energy. "That means the drinking water company is 100% sustainable. The relief in Quito implies we can harness the energy of falling water", he explained. "We have been able to incorporate the energy generated by our micro-stations to the national grid", he commented.

Concerning their position, he said "we are repositioning our company at the international level, and our main characteristic is our strategic planning model, based on sustainability, efficiency and quality". A very important milestone, achieved in 2016, was obtaining Aquarating certification. It was the first company in the world with the Aquarating certification (an IDB initiative), thanks to which they obtained the first loan without a sovereign guarantee, said Juan Carlos Espinosa.

In addition, “we are working on a programme to strengthen transparency, and we want to present a new public procurement system. We are revamping our ethics code, and improving our communications package", he said. To conclude the part on international strengthening, the pillar on corporate responsibility "allowed us to lead concerning SDG 6" he said.

Juan Pablo Espinosa also emphasised that "R&D is the future of investment in the water sector".

In terms of projects, "we are working on two major projects. One is close to completion, the Ramal Chalpi Papallacta project, the first in Ecuador without a sovereign guarantee”. The investment in this project amounts to $100 million, and it will improve water services for almost 500,000 people.

The other is Quito's Drinking Water and Sanitation Programme, with Sovereign Guarantee, which is currently being implemented. The investment in this project amounts to $221 million.

A third project focuses on river clean-up. "We need $900 million for this" said Juan Pablo Espinosa. "In the long term, we have a master plan with a horizon set for 2040, a river clean-up plan, and a change in the financing model".

In this regard, he noted they expect "Agua de Quito will be financially sustainable by 2040".

Concerning management indicators, 98% of the population has drinking water, 93.8% have sewerage services, the quality of water is close to 100%, non revenue water is 28.8%, and the index of continuity is 97.6% (hours/day uninterrupted service).

Juan Pablo Espinosa outlined their investment plan for 2021-2023, which amounts to $232 million. In the period 2024-2040, they expect to invest about $2.1 billion. Thus, Agua de Quito would like "sources of financing to go not only to drinking water and sewerage; there has to be a big leap in sanitation".

Juan Pablo Espinosa also shared some emblematic projects carried out by EPMAPS, such as Ramal Chalpi: “we are going to improve drinking water services for 500,000 people, he said.

Next, he highlighted Quito's Drinking Water and Sanitation Programme: "we will build a new drinking water treatment plant, the third in size in the metropolitan district".

He concluded noting that “the great drinking water challenges are technological innovation to improve customer service, and river clean-up. We need to invest $900 million".

He also mentioned public-private partnerships (PPPs): "The PPP model in the country has improved, we have more successful cases. We open an invitation". This model has now been regulated for three years. Quito is one of the few municipalities with a specific ordinance for these models.

Juan Pablo Espinosa added that “regardless of drinking water, the PPP model would work for services to users, and technological innovation. The idea is to challenge innovative public procurement".

To conclude his talk, he said that "the challenge for public water companies is hiring start-ups", and he added "we are working to launch our online office next month".

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