Despite some major improvements that resulted from the Urban Settlements Governance and Management Programme, by the end of 1999 the Burao Water Agency management capacity was still relatively weak. The administrative and managing skills were rudimentary, and there was a need to develop additional capacity to increase the efficiency of water production, water distribution, and revenue collection, among other things.
To render continued support to the Burao urban water sector, a project proposal was prepared in 1999 and a funding agreement between the Government of the Netherlands and UN-HABITAT was signed in July 2000. The resulting project (“Expansion and Management of the Burao Water System”) was implemented by UN-HABITAT, in partnership with the Burao Municipal Authority, the Burao Water Agency, and other relevant stakeholders.
The main objective of the project was to provide assistance in the rehabilitation, expansion, operation, and management of the Burao water supply system. In addition to capital-intensive inputs (e.g. new boreholes, distribution pipe extensions, and office equipment and furniture), capacity building was a very important component. The project trained Burao Water Agency staff in various aspects of urban water supply systems, such as operations, management, administration, finance, and planning for infrastructural development.
The intervention targeted four principal areas of intervention, which the Burao Municipal Authority and the water agency identified as critical components:
- Increasing water production
- Extending the distribution network
- Upgrading, equipping, and furnishing the Burao Water Agency offices
- Enhancing staff capacity and improving operations of the technical, administrative, financial, and management departments of the Burao Water Agency
The project results were numerous and impressive. Water production increased by about 130 percent, from an average of 540 m³ per day at the onset of the project to a volume of 1,245 m³ in 2003. Over the same period, the maximum pumping capacity went up by 169 percent. The availability of clean and affordable piped water substantially increased, while dependency on unsafe water from shallow wells was reduced. The Burao piped water supply system was extended by 4.8 kilometres. Between 2000 and 2004, the number of households with a water connection rose from 665 to 2,184. The number of communal water kiosks increased from 90 to 152.
Meanwhile, revenue collection almost tripled between 2000 and 2002. Towards the end of the project, the average monthly revenue was five times higher than the income in 2000. Volumes of unpaid and unaccounted for water were almost halved. Staff levels at Burao Water Agency remained relatively constant, despite significantly increased levels of operations. Efficiency grew, with monthly revenue collection per staff member increasing by 175 percent. The agency was finally able to pay off long-standing debts. Awareness on water-related issues greatly improved among local counterparts and stakeholders in the Burao water sector. Staff were trained in accounting, financial management, and budgeting procedures, as well as surveying and mapping techniques. The offices were furnished and equipped. Finally, normative support was provided to central authorities, in particular for the ongoing development of policies and mechanisms for water sector regulation, oversight, inspection, and enforcement, as well as the creation of public-private partnerships.