Water = Essential

I do not like the phrase "It might have been!"
It lacks force, and life's best truths perverts:
For I believe we have, and reach, and win,
Whatever our deserts.

American poet, 1850 – 1917 Ella Wheeler Wilcox


Only corporates or institutions that produce or act in a sustainable way will be able to keep their ‘licence to operate’ and will be able to outperform their less-sustainable competitors.

Sustainability should not be seen as an add-on and a cost factor. Sustainability belongs to the core of activities where it helps to create a value proposition and acts as a driving force for innovations, higher resource efficiencies and improved supply chain management. Attention to sustainability also changes the way of thinking: looking at opportunities, new partnerships and new markets, rather than acting in a defensive way by looking at threats.

Thus, paying attention to sustainability is not only needed for the well-being of people and planet, but it is also for the interest of the companies themselves. 

Moeder met kind
foto met Peter
Groep mensen


Flooding in megacities in Asian deltas and severe water shortages in many other parts of the world stipulate the prevalent unbalances in the world’s water resources. Water is becoming increasingly scarce, non-renewable resources are depleted. A process which is aggravated by climate change. Food security in many parts of the world is at stake.

Water is generally used in a non-sustainable way by households, governments and corporates. Water-use efficiency has to increase dramatically. Corporates have the bounden duty to invest in resource efficiency and look for innovations to diminish water use, also for their supply chain. Nowhere, is the litmus test on sustainability more real than with a scarce, precious,non-renewable source as water.

Also governments need to take responsibility in the sustainable provision of environmental services and a sustainable management of natural resources. These services do not necessarily all have to come from government, but it bears overall responsibility and should create the framework for the sustainable provision of those services. 

Vrouw met takken
Met Peter


In economic harsh times, investments in sustainability are generally not considered to be the highest priority for corporates or governments. The long run is crucial, but how to survive tomorrow’s problems is even more important. Budgets are tight and alternative uses manifold. Also, investments in those sectors are high, while direct returns are non-financial or will merely appear in the longer run. 

Effective use of available funds, seeking for innovative ways to increase financial returns/lower the costs and looking for appealing short-term results should be features of any financing on sustainability. Also, the right finance structure is essential, to attune costs with benefits and to leverage funds.

Mannen op stoep
Water halen
Met Peter
Vrouw lacht


Water = Essential

The issues of sustainability, water & finance are closely related; sustainable water use is crucial in sustainability and without the right engagement, sustainable water management is not possible. Finance is the engine that makes ambitions in these fields happen. Water = Essential provides assistance on these highly interconnected areas in setting up and strengthening activities with which we can bring sustainability at a higher level.

Peter Vos

Founder of water is essential is senior water economist Peter Vos. Bringing over 25 years in sustainability, water and finance he is specialized in

  • financing & investing in sustainable sectors
  • setting up new business activities in sustainable sectors
  • international project management
  • projects in the public and private sector
Met Peter
Man met kar
Chinese man
Cover of Positioning survey Mozambique

Positioning survey Mozambique

Mozambique is an attractive country for doing business for the Dutch Water sector. This report of Aidenvironment and Water = Essential identifies opportunities, strategies, and approaches for the Dutch Water sector in Mozambique. A number of Product-Market-Combinations (PMCs) have been defined in the areas of WASH, IWRM, agriculture, and maritime and coastal zone development.

Cover of Paper: New business models

Paper: New business models

This book, initiated by the Radboud University of Nijmegen (The Netherlands), presents results of enquiries on new business models in which the sustainability aspect form an integral part. The focal point is business models that create multiple values; besides economic also social and environmental value is generated. Peter Vos (W=E) was one of the co creators of this book.


My experience covers a wide number of countries.
Some recent examples:

My focus in these projects:

  • A practical and workable project set up to implement successfully.
  • Setting realistic timeframes by clustering and sequencing of projects
  • Bringing in innovations, for example by incorporating economic incentives and by leveraging private-sector funds.

For example:

In Benin, with the formulation of the second phase of the development programme, PPEA II, I introduced a system of financial allocations based on performances instead of predetermined, fixed allocations. In Ghana, the programme is structured in a way that also the private sector will contribute to investments in water & sanitation.

Bosnia-Herzegovina - Water Sector Reform Programme

Focus: setting up system of water board, drafting of new water law, integrating Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dayton

Financier: EU

Role: financial expert
water economist

When: 2002 - 2003

Romania - Financial & Operational Performance Improvement Programme (FOPIP) of the Romanian Water Companies

Focus: improvement of operations, institutional strengthening, preparation for financing out of EU cohesion funds

Financier: EU

Role: Project Director
Financial Expert
PPP expert

When: 2006 - 2008

Romania - PPP of Constanta Water Company

Focus: assist the County with the tendering for the privatisation of the water company

Financier: EBRD

Role: Financial Expert
PPP expert
Transaction advisor

When: 2004 - 2008

China - Hunan Agricultural and Infrastructure Improvement Project (HARIIP)

Focus: Water management
Rural infrastructure

Financier: IFAD

Role: Project Manager

When: Dec 2012

Vietnam - Groundwater study Mekong Delta

Focus: Institutional & Technical Support Department of Groundwater management

Financier: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands

Role: Financial Expert
PPP expert

When: 1998 - 2001

Ghana - Technical assistance to sustainable infrastructure

Focus: Setting up of development programme, assistance to tender process, innovative financing mechanism

Financier: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands

Role: Financial Expert
PPP expert
Procurement expert

When: On going

Sri Lanka - Sustainable irrigation to Sri Lanka’s dry zone

Focus: Sustainable irrigation
Meso-financing scheme to farmers

Financier: Rabobank Foundation

Role: Project Manager
Financial Expert
MFI expert

When: 2009

Benin - Formulation de la deuxième phase du PPEA II

Focus: formulation of new 4-year development programme, preparation of tender documents

Financier: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands

Role: Financial Expert
PPP expert
Procurement expert

When: 2012

Uzbekistan - Tashkent Water Supply Improvement Project

Focus: Financial and Operational Performance Improvement

Financier: EBRD

Role: Financial Expert
PPP expert

When: 2005

Nigeria - PSP Kaduna Water Supply

Focus: Identify potential options for PPP

Financier: World bank

Role: Financial Expert
PPP expert

When: 2001

China - Wastewater Managent in Hangu

Focus: Wastewater management

Financier: World Bank

Role: Project Manager
Financial Expert

When: Dec 2004

China - Feasible Technologies in Environmental Infrastructure in Western Provinces

Focus: feasibility of new technologies

Financier: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands

Role: Financial Expert
PPP expert

When: 2007 - 2008

Egypt - Improved Water and Wastewater Services Programme (IWSP)

Focus: Decentralisation of responsibilities for investments in water & sanitation to governerates

Financier: KfW

Role: Setting up a financial management system

When: 2013

Colombia - Holland Water House in Colombia

Focus: Development of new business opportunities

Financier: Royal Netherlands'Embassy & Agentschap.nl

Role: Making a business plan & strategy

When: 2013


‘Done near you’

11 December 2015

This is pigeon English for: I am close to you. Everybody that has visited Nigeria knows this expression.  It was said by a taxi driver who I asked to pick me up from my hotel. It appeared that it took him more than an hour to actually arrive. Also at a restaurant this can be heard for food that is not available: ‘it is coming sir’. Actually it is not available and will never come….

What is the reason? It is of course partly cultural; they don’t want to disappoint you. It is partly non commitment; employees are used to be shouted at and humiliated and they don’t seem to be impressed. I was once speaking to a general manager of a water company which had not provided certified annual financial statements for the last 5 years. When asking, he pretended not to know. He ordered the financial director and shouted ‘’you provide me with these approved statements by tomorrow or I will drag you out and fire you’’. Both of them knew that it was just a play to dilute me….

But it is more. It is also pure self-interest and lack of (national) esteem and use of standards. How come that as one richest oil & gas producing countries, it has to import petrol? How come that they even have to import food? How come in hotels, service is always worse than last time? How come that 80% of the menu is not there? The arrival hall in Port Harcourt international airport is under construction for several years now and the hall is just a tent! It is not just the economic crisis, because this is older than the crisis.  As long there are no standards to perform, no accountability, no one is to blame and people including politicians can muddle through. This attitude has to change. Nigeria has to live up to their standards!


Water = Essential

Peter Vos (MSc)
Senior water economist 

Van Slichtenhorststraat 25
6524 JJ Nijmegen
The Netherlands 

+31 65 756 90 37


Water is Essential businesscard
Peter Vos, Water is Essential