Rasim Velić – who lives in the town of Gornja Koprivna in Bosnia and Herzegovina - carries water uphill from a spring 200 meters away. He's sprightly, but at 80-years old it's difficult to maintain this routine. When he finally got connected to the network, he had only one faucet in the basement of his old adobe house.
Despite Bosnia and Herzegovina's abundant water resources, access to safe drinking water is well below EU standards: 42 percent of the population can only access water from private or local wells, springs or village supplies. In most cases, these don't have the capacity to provide a regular water supply the entire year. Because the quality is not controlled, the water often doesn't meet official health and water standards.
The other 58 percent receive water from registered utility companies, but although the water is clean, the service is irregular during dry summer months. The systems are old and have not been maintained regularly, which results in more than 50 percent water loss, malfunctions and high distribution costs.
Because the networks are inefficient and financially unsustainable, municipalities and water supply companies can barely sustain the services they offered in the former Yugoslavia when the entire system was subsidised by the national government. Public utility companies were run by local authorities, operating independently, who often took advantage. With no clear pricing and billing system, there was no transparency about where the money was going, and citizens paid for service they didn't get.
Since 2016, 18 municipalities, supported by the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and implemented by UNDP, have been working to improve the quality and availability of water supplies for over 700,000 people.