Effect of Non-Revenue Water on the Operation of African Water Utilities: Case studies of Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire
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Non-Revenue Water (NRW) continues to be a threat to water utilities’ technical and financial sustainability in African countries. However, the issue lies in paying little to no attention on the effect that it has on the performance of these utilities. In that regard, this study was conducted to understand the effect of Non-Revenue Water on operations of African Utilities. The study used a comparative approach, between ONEA from Burkina Faso and SODECI from Cote d’Ivoire, taken as case studies; with the aim at analyzing and identifying what could be the different challenges in solving the problems related to NRW. Questionnaires were used to assess the level of NRW management, the impacts of NRW on the technical, financial, customer and institutional performance and finally to do a SWOT analysis model for effective management of NRW. Results showed that SODECI’s NRW level kept increasing within 7 years at 36% while ONEA’s level of NRW was kept constant at 19.3% for 3 years. The reasons for this lie in the high number of frauds for SODECI (1092 frauds in Abidjan) while ONEA’s number of frauds remains completely unknown. Each year SODECI allocates 1 million usd and 70 million usd for commercial and technical water losses reduction, respectively; while ONEA uses 200,000 usd. SODECI supplies water for 20 hours in a day while ONEA’s supply is for 23 hours. Results also emphasized on the need for SODECI to establish a NRW department with defined duties and chef of service in charge of water losses reduction plans, budget and logistics. The SWOT analysis showed that SODECI’s strength lies in being a private company with opportunities to attract investments for NRW through the Private-Public-Partnership. ONEA, as a public company, has an advantage of having a strong institutional and regulatory framework as well as a clear and detailed organizational structure with a chef of service in charge of NRW reduction. SODECI presented failure to have a good organizational structure while ONEA’s weakness lies in the little knowledge of the number of frauds and high number of leaks. Both utilities declared that climate change, population growth and lack of investments are the major threats to their performance. The study recommends enforcement of policies on improvement of water revenues for cost recovery; capacity building for NRW management, adoption of ICT tools for data acquisition and community engagement as well as institutionalization of NRW within African water utilities. Finally, this study proposed an innovative model for the management of NRW in water utilities.