Members of Chile’s lower chamber of congress will discuss a bill to concession rural potable water and sanitation services in the second week of November 2009, an official from the house’s public works committee told BNamericas.
The senate approved the bill unanimously in October 2009 and it has been classified as “extremely urgent” due to its importance for the sector, the official added.
The new law includes the creation of a national rural sanitation department that will operate within the waterworks division of the public works ministry (MOP).
The new authority will award the operation and maintenance of rural sanitation services to existing cooperatives, to newly created ones and also to sanitation companies.
“Cooperatives will operate as concessionaires because they will be given the right to manage these services and administer revenues over a period of time,” the official said.
When the concession period is over, the cooperative in charge of services will have certain advantages if it wants to continue but there is no guarantee it will be awarded the concession again, the official added.
The new rural sanitation department will work with regional governments to draw up plans and programs to expand services; create a registry of and classify rural water operators; and supervise these entities to guarantee services. The authority will also decide policies and administer technical and financial support from national government on a case-by-case basis.
Contracts will be granted for 30 years, during which the awardee will provide potable water and sewage services, sewage collection services and wastewater treatment in some cases, according to the bill.
Service rates will be set for five-year periods by the national sanitation services authority SISS, which also establishes the rates for urban water utilities.
Under Chile’s current framework, many entities are involved in rural sanitation, which makes it difficult to monitor the services provided by cooperatives and solve problems efficiently.
In 1964 only 6% of Chile’s rural population had access to potable water. Nowadays, coverage is at 98%, serving a population of over 1.5mn inhabitants. The quality of these services, however, differs among communities.
The increase in rural potable water coverage is mainly due to a US$400mn investment carried out by the state from 1994-2005.
Source: Eva Medalla, BNamericas.com [subscription site], 04 Nov 2009