Water reforms in Latin America overflow boundaries of private investments

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Nov. 16, 2009 -- According to Frost & Sullivan, private sector participation is no longer the focus of water supply reforms in Latin America, as infrastructure modernization and service efficiency are emerging as vital issues...

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Nov. 16, 2009 -- Private sector participation is no longer the focus of water supply reforms in Latin America, as infrastructure modernization and service efficiency are emerging as vital issues. Privatization does not even figure in some reforms rolled out in countries such as Peru or Panama, while in Colombia and Chile, it has been confined to metropolitan areas or major provincial centers.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Opportunities in the Latin American Municipal Water Sector, finds that the market earned revenues of $43.10 billion in 2008 and estimates this to reach $61.40 billion in 2014.

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"Latin American water efficiency differs widely from country to country but it is the general objective of all governments in the region to increase the service efficiency by reducing clandestine intakes and increasing the fee collecting mechanisms," says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst David Olvera Mora.

The first country to attempt modernization of its water and wastewater sector was Chile, while Argentina and Mexico were a joint second. Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia modified their legislation to promote infrastructure and efficiency upgrades in the mid 1990s, and in the second half of that decade, Brazil and Central America followed suit. By the end of the 1990s nearly all countries in Latin America had completed their reforms.

However, the passing of legislation and regulations are not entirely glitch-free. In some Latin American countries, policies, planning, and decision-making processes are fragmented, as they involve different agents. In some situations, varied interests (public and private) have to be taken into account and planned for.

These problems restrain the acquisition and execution of investments from different sources in the water and wastewater sector. To compound matters, the economic downturn and the consequent credit crunch has obstructed the flow of funds and foreign direct investment (FDI) into the sector.

Owing to these hurdles, project financing of both public and private initiatives are likely to be postponed, canceled, or significantly challenged.

As with most other markets, the cost-conscious end users of the municipal water sector are likely to be slow adopters of new technologies. Municipal industries could offset some of these end-user inhibitions by investing in advanced technologies that will facilitate the treatment of water at the point of use for human consumption. The untreated water could be used for flushing toilets and other non-critical applications.

"The reduction of wastage is likely to become a strategic imperative for water utilities and greater emphasis is expected to be placed on water conservation, particularly waste water," notes Olvera.

They will be helped along in their efforts with the privatization wave bringing in much-needed funds to the cash-starved utilities. Further, a privatized governance structure may ensure greater stability during changes in political administrations and promote more sustained development initiatives.

Opportunities in the Latin American Municipal Water Sector is part of the Environmental Growth Partnership Services program, which also includes research in the following markets: country industry forecast - Brazilian environmental and building technologies industry, country industry forecast - Argentinean environmental and building technologies industry, country industry forecast - Chilean environmental and building technologies industry, and Brazilian municipal water & wastewater treatment market. All research services included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.

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