Published by EH.Net (January 2019)

Tapio S. Katko, Finnish Water Services: Experiences in a Global Perspective. Finnish Water Utilities Association, 2016. 288 pp. 70 euros (hardcover), ISBN: 978-952-6697-26-0.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Viktor Pál, Laboratory for Environmental and Technological History, Higher Schools of Economics.

Tapio S. Katko, the UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Water Services at Tampere University, has focused his research on the history and future of water services histories for over four decades. Katko has authored and co-authored around seven hundred scientific and popular publications on this subject and has led several large-scale research projects. Katko is an authority on Finnish water services and this volume provides a detailed overview of the history, present condition and future challenges of water services in Finland. It may be also viewed as the summary of Katko’s decades-long investigations.

The book is structured into four major parts: Water Problems, Solutions and Technology Development; Operational Environment and the Economics of Water Services; Institutional Development and Governance; and the Societal Importance and Future of Water Services.

Part I explains the importance of water services in both the Finnish and global contexts. It positions water services as one of the major challenges of the global environmental. The introductory chapter summarizes the book’s major aims: the analysis of the evolution of water services, the changing role of water services in changing society, possible future trajectories, and potential applicability of best practices. In Chapter 2, Katko provides an overview of post-World War II international water policy trends with stress on activities, programs and campaigns of the United Nations and UNESCO. Chapter 3 presents a historical overview in a nutshell on the importance of water services beginning with the Ancient Greeks and ending with the history of Finland. This chapter stresses issues related to path dependence and Finland’s special relationship with Sweden. Chapter 4 analyzes the role and networks of water experts in Finland since the nineteenth century. Chapter 5 gives an overview of the selection of raw water sources and issues related to geology and groundwater versus surface water in Finland. Chapter 6 discusses issues related to water efficiency, such as water metering, water use in various countries, and the re-use of water in dual systems. In Chapter 7 Katko analyzes the evolution of surface and groundwater water treatment methods and summarizes water quality and on-site options in Finland. Chapter 8 discusses issues related to aging water and wastewater networks including water pipelines, sewers, network automation, maintenance and network rehabilitation, water towers, and urban floods. Chapter 9 is the last chapter in Part I and focuses on issues related to environmental protection, such as wastewater treatment, centralization and rehabilitation of wastewater treatment plants, water services for holiday resorts in Finnish Lapland, sludge treatment and management, water pollution control in dispersed rural areas, industrial water pollution control, and the development of loadings in water bodies.

Part II of Finnish Water Services focuses on the economics and operation of water services and contains two chapters. Chapter 10 maps out factors which contribute to the ever changing environment in the water services sector. According to Katko these factors are changes in municipal and regional structures, changes in land use, changes in water services organizations, and changes in financing and tariffs. The brief Chapter 11 focuses on elements of customer- and citizen-oriented water services.

Part III analyzes the institutional development and governance of Finnish water services. Chapter 12 discusses issues of the institutional framework and legislation. Chapter 13 covers education, research, and development, as well as social efficacy and impact. Chapter 14 presents water services related civic society activities and introduces briefly the Finnish Water Utilities Association (the publisher of this volume), and other water associations and related civic society organizations. Chapter 15 focuses on the ups and downs of public and private sector collaboration and introduces concepts related to public and private ownership of water services via global and Finnish examples. At the end of this chapter, Katko lists enterprises engaged in water services production in Finland. The author discusses the “changing international water arena” in Chapter 16. This includes brief summaries of the European integration, and the role of local governments in Europe. Individual sub-chapters in Chapter 16 focus on the Baltic Sea and Finland’s involvement and positive role in the development of water services and policy in the global South.

Part IV discusses possible future trajectories for water services and their societal relevance which Katko labels as “futures.” Chapter 17 briefly summarizes history-related findings of this volume, and Chapter 18 quickly moves on to future challenges of water services in Finland. In Chapter 19, Katko briefly discusses the international policy environment and possibilities for cooperation, via examples taken from Finland, Latin America, India, Japan, Kenya, the Netherlands, Ukraine and Colorado.

Finnish Water Services is a well researched and beautifully designed book. It will please readers who are interested in the past, present and future of water services in Finland. Although the book is positioned as academic writing, it combines popularizing science and social sciences research. Because of its narrowly defined focus, this book is probably meant to be read by water engineers who are interested in the case of Finland in a global context.

Katko masters the subject of this book and is an authority on this field of study. This volume may be viewed as a summary of Katko’s and his distinguished research team’s decades-long activities.

Viktor Pál is an international postdoctoral fellow at the Laboratory for Environmental and Technological History at the Higher Schools of Economics in St. Petersburg, Russia. He is the author of Technology and the Environment in State-Socialist Hungary: An Economic History (2017).

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