ISO has just published three standards providing guidelines for service activities relating to drinking water supply systems and wastewater sewerage systems. These international standards are designed to help water authorities and their operators to achieve a level of quality that best meets the expectations of users and the principles of sustainable development.

ISO Secretary-General Alan Bryden comments: ”These ISO standards will play a primary role in promoting access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation through improved governance at all levels. Their publication is a first step towards responding to the United Nations' concern in recognizing that access to water is an essential human right. The UN has set ambitious goals to increase access to drinking water and wastewater services, particularly in developing countries”.

ISO 24510, Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services – Guidelines for the assessment and for the improvement of the service to users, is a service oriented standard that addresses the following topics:

  • a brief description of the components of the service relating to the users;
  • core objectives for the service, with respect to users’ needs and expectations;
  • guidelines for satisfying users’ needs and expectations;
  • assessment criteria for service to users in accordance with the guidelines provided;
  • examples of indicators linked to the assessment criteria that can be used for assessing the performance of the service.

ISO 24511, Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services – Guidelines for the management of wastewater utilities and for the assessment of wastewater services, and ISO 24512, Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services – Guidelines for the management of drinking water utilities and for the assessment of drinking water services, both management-oriented, address the following topics:

  • a brief description of the physical/infrastructural and managerial/institutional components of water utilities;
  • core objectives for water utilities, considered to be globally relevant at the broadest level;
  • guidelines for the management of the water utilities;
  • guidelines for the assessment of the water services with service assessment criteria related to the objectives, and performance indicators linked to these criteria.

The objective of these international standards is to provide the relevant stakeholders with guidelines for assessing and improving the service to users, and with guidance for managing water utilities, consistent with the overarching goals set by the relevant authorities. These standards are intended to facilitate dialogue between the stakeholders, enabling them to develop a mutual understanding of the functions and tasks that fall within the scope of water utilities.

They can also provide methods and tools to define, at local level, objectives and specifications, and assess and monitor performance for possible benchmarking among water utilities.

Jean-Luc Redaud, Chair of the ISO technical committee ISO/TC 224 that developed the standards, comments: "Many stakeholders are involved in water services and these standards will be useful in setting up collective systems of assessment allowing continual improvement of the service to users. This implies clarifying the responsibilities of all involved. One of the main objectives of the committee was to set up guidelines in order to develop a better mutual understanding of responsibilities and tasks of all stakeholders. These standards will have now to be adapted to national or regional contexts. A strong orientation towards developing countries was taken by the TC with the creation of an ad hoc group, lead by Morocco, in order to support developing countries in the application of these standards. A first trial of the standards has been launched in some African countries.”

The implementation of the standards will be monitored to provide feedback for further improvement.

The new standards were developed by ISO/TC 224, Service activities relating to drinking water supply systems and wastewater systems - Quality criteria of the service and performance indicators.

ISO 24510:2007 costs 164 Swiss francs and ISO 24511:2007 and ISO 24512:2007, 154 Swiss francs each and are available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat through the ISO Store or by contacting the Marketing & Communication department (see right-hand column).