IHE Delft Boosts Sustainable Water Services Management in Uganda’s Small Towns

IHE Delft Boosts Sustainable Water Services Management in Uganda’s Small Towns

Saphira Nahabwe
March 20, 2018

Some water wells and streams in drier villages of north and north-eastern Uganda are drying up again. But, a number of families in these villages are not worried. For, they will no longer depend on vagaries of these water resources to meet their water needs.

Now, National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) has successfully secured funds through SMALL (Water Supply and Sanitation Services in Small towns in Sub-Saharan Africa) and Alternative Approaches and Tools for Improved Water Supply and Sanitation (ATWATSAN) projects, in partnership with IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in Delft, the Netherlands (and others) to provide alterative water sources and several capacity development activities, such as effective management trainings.

The project, according to Geoffrey Mwesigye, the branch manager for National Water and Sewerage Corporation – NWSC, in Paidha, Zombo district focuses on increasing water production and making it available to drier and poverty stricken communities.

“It is using cheap means of water sources, like improving gravity flow schemes. Currently in Paidha, we are using boreholes as water system. The gravity flow scheme will not be using power to generate water. It will just flow by its own to its reserves,” notes the visibly happy Geoffrey.

The water will flow by gravity which makes it easier and cheaper to supply.

“If you have a problem with one water source, you can switch to another so that in the end you have reliable water supply,” notes Geoffrey.

For example, in Gulu town, where the National Water and Sewerage Corporation pumps about 5,000,000 liters of water daily, with the advent of this project, they could pump as many as 10, 000, 000 liters every day according to Stephen Gang, the Gulu Area Manager.

“We have constructed six production boreholes so far and we have captured them to be connected to the piped water grid,” narrates Stephen, further explaining that additional water reservoirs and alternative water sources will boost the masses to connect to the piped water systems.

Geoffrey and Stephen were speaking in an interview at the one week training for NWSC’s regional managers in small towns in the north and north-eastern Uganda.

The one week training, facilitated by IHE Delft staff under the SMALL (Water Supply and Sanitation Services in Small towns in Sub-Saharan Africa) took place at IREC-national water head office in Kampala, Uganda in February.

Increasing the capacity of regional managers of NWSC in small towns in the northern region of Uganda was part of the activities being implemented under this project.

Other components of these two projects include capacity development activities that range from trainings in Uganda to scholarships to study abroad, as well as research activities that seek to answer questions put forward by NWSC itself in order to accelerate the access of water in small towns in Uganda. This is according to Mireia Tutusaus, a lecturer in water services management in the department of integrated water systems and governance at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in Delft, the Netherlands.

“We have two projects at IHE Delft that are based in Uganda and some other countries that are looking at increasing the needs, expanding services in the so called small towns which is somewhere between urban and very rural areas,” narrates Mireia.

“Water and sanitation is a common problem all over the world. We are trying to understand how the models (for water supply) are applicable to small towns because they have different important conditions in terms of densities, population, technical and financial capacities,” says Mireia.

Due to quickly changing infrastructure, states Mireia, the available models are only applicable for relatively stable places like Kampala, Jinja, Mbarara and do not apply to these very small, semi urban settlements.

“As part of that project, we have been requested by National water to look into the contract implementation that the head office has with these small towns and branches in the area, we combine two efforts from these two projects in this training, “explains Mireia, who says the purpose of the effective management training is to allow participants identify the gaps between what local branch and Area Managers are required to do in their daily operations and what resources are available to them.

Up to 2000 water tanks have already been put in place. Other initiatives include exploiting surface and ground water; soft and hard soils among others.

Effective Management Training

The training was organized as a follow‐up training on basic management skills for Area and Branch Managers of NWSC in the Northern and Eastern regions of Uganda.

It focused on challenges managers face in implementing National Water and Sewerage Corporation programs, identifying resources required to implement activities and gauging those that are available among others.

And according to Denis Etono, the Nebbi NWSC Area Manager, this would have been too costly for the National Water and Sewerage Corporation to handle alone.

“We got the best training for free. We just have to go back into our areas and train everyone what we have learnt especially about managing costs.”

Etono stresses that the training itself is a source of coaching which will help develop the sense of coaching and delegation in the organisation.
“Managers shall make a strong team because we have the feeling that we are really managers. It also helped us to develop very good communication and leadership skills to address the stake holders,” notes Etono.

He also says that the training helped to improve effectiveness in administration and highlighted areas to improve.

According to Rose Mutonyi, the Pader Area Manager, the training emphasized providing ready, real and long term solutions to any challenge that might arise that might impede their operations.

National Water and Sewerage Corporation under projects such as ATWATSAN is taking up projects, “they are already drilling some boreholes. They are going to rehabilitate old gravity flow schemes, in some places, they are going to procure some pumps,” notes Rose.

This, according to her is a collective support from ATWATSAN that will help National Water and Sewerage Corporation move forward.

“The prices of water are not going to increase. This is service delivery which is like our target. Our role here is to learn how to continuously satisfy our customers without increasing their prices,” notes Rose.

Alternative Water Sources

Alternative water systems have been used in rural areas worldwide for decades. They are an option in new urban areas where no central infrastructures pre-exist, and in extra-urban areas.

They are more competitive in unstable contexts, where flexibility, resilience and adaptation are valuable – a context created by climate change in many places).
They are even more relevant where property developers operate the buildings they invest in.

Alternative water systems are based on the so-called soft path, an approach which is not technology driven and suggests that a variety of ways of providing water and sanitation should be explored or combined.

Ways of supplying water can be characterized along two axes. One deals with the infrastructure, which can be centralized or decentralized. The other deals with the water which is used: either freshwater only, for a single use; or alternative sources of water.

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