By Edmund Smith-Asante, NAIROBI
|Unaccounted for water has been identified as a major challenge of utility companies in Africa.|
According to a 2006 World Bank report, the total cost of non-revenue water (NRW) worldwide to water utilities is about $14 billion annually.
Stating these at the opening of a four-day Science and Technical Council (STC) meeting of the African Water Association (AfWA) in Nairobi, Kenya, Ghana Water Company’s Chief Manager in Charge of Corporate Planning, Mr Cephas Tetteh Oguah, said “losses can be real (through leaks, sometimes also referred to as physical losses) or apparent (for example through theft or metering and billing inaccuracies.”
Speaking on “The technical aspects of non- revenue water to increase access to water for all,” Mr Oguah said apparent losses were estimated at 30 million m3 (35 billion litres) and that “reducing the current level by half will generate $2.9 billion in cash annually for the sector and serve an additional 90 million people without any additional investment in production facilities.“Reducing NRW, therefore, releases new sources of both water and finances,” he added.
Later in an interview with the Daily Graphic, Mr Oguah said all over the world for “most water utilities, if your non-revenue water is 20 per cent or below, it is excellent,” adding that those who had single digit NRW were very few.
The case of Ghana
He said, especially in the big towns and cities of Ghana such as Accra where there are very old pipes dating as far back as the 1920s, NRW accounted for 45 per cent of water produce, having moved from 50 per cent. “The target of Ghana Water Company (GWCL) is to go below 40 per cent to 30 per cent in the next five years and 25 per cent by 2030,” he stated.
Mr Oguah said while funds were needed to replace old pipelines, the plan was to provide meters for all customers, 60 per cent of whom were currently metered with 40 per cent outstanding. Also, old meters would be replaced to enhance efficiency and automatic meter reading and transfer of data using Global Positioning System (GPS) would be employed to minimise meter reading and transfer errors.
He appealed to consumers to promptly expose people who do illegal connections and report leakages or bust pipes to the GWCL.
The AfWA NRW Reduction (FABRI) Project
Mr Oguah said it was to tackle one of the key needs of African water utilities that the AfWA, with the assistance of USAID, launched a NRW Reduction Project as part of its Further Advancing Blue Revolution Initiative (FABRI) in Marrakech, Morocco in February 2012.
The project selected 22 utilities initially but 19 from across Africa participated. It involved a water audit to assess the volume of water lost where and why the water is lost, the value of the loss and making a business case for reducing the loss.
Its primary goal is to help the utility companies select and implement programmes to sustainably reduce water losses and manage utilities as efficient businesses.
Mr Oguah, who is the Chairman of the AfWA Task Force on non-revenue water reduction, said the findings on the causes of NRW included inaccurate customer meters, insufficient knowledge of illegal connections, insufficient or poor quality data with too many estimated values and inadequate asset management, resulting in ageing infrastructure.
Other factors found were intermittent water supply and, the lack of equipment for pressure management and leakage control, while for most of the utilities, physical losses accounted for over 70 per cent of NRW, mostly due to old water network infrastructure and/or lack of pressure management initiatives.
Utility strategies for NRW reduction
said strategies identified to ensure “quick wins” included ensuring the provision of a recognised and ‘powerful’ NRW department, active leakage control, pressure management and, improvement of skills for repair and maintenance of assets.
Others are employing and advanced Geographic Information System (GIS), updated and verified drawings, as well as records equipped with sufficient staff and logistical resources (vehicles and equipment) to sustain an active NRW reduction and leak detection policy in the various utilities.
The utilities are also to ensure that all customers are registered, illegal connections are dealt with, inactive connections are investigated, annual NRW audits conducted, all customers are metered through a universal metering programme and new connections procedures improved.
Mr Oguah also called for an improvement of customer database and verification of accounts, addressing of illegal connections through the implementation of law enforcement and legal policies against theft and also the testing of meters, as well as analysing of meter age profiles.
He asked utilities to prevent tampering of meters, embark on awareness and feedback campaigns, stakeholder education and collaboration, use public for alerting to leaks and theft, increase coverage by simplifying connection procedures, conduct customer outreach programmes, introduce payment options and pre-paid metering, employ simplified tariff models and replace old pipes.
This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on Friday, December 4, 2015