We have now been organizing and processing our data for a couple of weeks and the outline of our roadmap is starting to get some shape. As mentioned at the end of our field trip, compiling all challenges from different utilities into one guideline is not simple: Every WUA has some similarities but they mostly all struggle with different kinds of challenges. In this post, we will briefly open up our findings from the different projects.
Kamwene Water Project
Out of all three projects we visited, Kamwene seemed to have the most progressed business and they had a clear vision and plan for their future. However, there were a few challenges holding them back of which the biggest was their non-revenue water. The amount of non-revenue water was estimated to be big and we even saw leakages on our way. There is a drought in the area and rationing is everyday life for the customers of the project. If the amount of non-revenue water would be tackled strongly enough the amount of water supplied to the customers could get much higher. Ways to reduce the amount of non-revenue water, in this case, could be investing in a bulk meter at the intake and cutting repair times.
In Kamwene there were also some problems with technology as the storage tanks and pipe layouts could have been better designed to serve their purpose. These technical issues were found to be unfortunately common in small water user associations.
Sirimon Water Project
Sirimon water project had also same kinds of issues with pipe layout due to which some areas connected to the network were not receiving water at all. Like Kamwene water project, Sirimon is also supplying water with gravity. This is good for eliminating pumping costs but if pipe sizes and layout are not designed carefully enough they might cause pressure issues in lower areas of the network.
Sirimon has issues with dry spells lasting from December until March during which they are rationed for their intake. During this time they also have to ration their customers which causes problems with billing: Sirimon is yet to install consumer meters and all the customers are paying flat rates. During dry seasons part of their customers is not willing to pay the rate for the rationed water and this causes challenges to their financial sustainability.
Sipili Water Project
Sipili water project was very different from the two first projects as it is not taking water from a river but has its own three boreholes. Sipili has very good and precise bookkeeping but needs to learn how to make plans for the future. They also need to plan their maintenance and start thinking about groundwater protection to make sure their water source is sustainable.
Some findings from the utilities were common to all of them. They all had a mindset of relying on donors when making bigger investments and had very ambitious goals. They did no budgeting to fund their own investments. With some planning ahead and saving money, they could start funding their own expansion.
One clear challenge for all of them was also communication with customers and systematic customer management. With clear information about connections and pricing models, they could get new customers faster.
Even though there is a long list of challenges described above, it should definitely be mentioned that these utilities are doing many things well and really putting a lot of energy into the projects and not all of these are listed. The boards of the projects and the whole communities are very active and keen on learning new ways to run their businesses. This is even more admirable when you realize they often work either free or with very little compensation for their efforts.
All the challenges we found and their possible mitigation will all be included in our roadmap. However, not everything can be handled on a very detailed level. To make sure these three utilities, who invested a lot of their time and effort into the project, benefit from our visit as much as they can, we will compile them their own individual suggestions.
In the next post, we will tell more about our roadmap and what we have planned for it. Stay tuned!