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Effective Operation and Maintenance Key to Improving Water Services in West Georgia

August 22, 2019
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Significant investments are transforming the water supply and sanitation services in Kutaisi, Poti, Anaklia, Ureki and Zugdidi in West Georgia. Despite these, non-revenue water (NRW) and energy costs remain high, and the cities grapple with their new water infrastructure systems.

How to ensure continuous and high quality water services towards better health and environment? The Operational Performance Assessment and Improvement Action Plan provides insights in addressing key operational management issues.

In 2010, the United Water Supply Company of Georgia (UWSCG) was established to enhance the operation and maintenance (O&M) of the country’s water and wastewater systems. In 2011, Georgia and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a financing agreement, up to $500 million for the Urban Services Improvement Investment Program.

With support from ADB and other agencies, Georgia initiated a major water infrastructure upgrade. Parallel to the foreseen expansion of its water distribution, wastewater collection and treatment are being augmented to replace the localized system or the direct discharge of untreated wastewater.

Understanding the link between effective O&M and the sustainability of water infrastructure services, the UWSCG and ADB-Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department (SDCC), with support from CDIA conducted a performance assessment and proposed action plans to improve current O&M practices, procedures and organization; as well as define the training and equipment needs in the five cities under study.

It focused on the following objectives: 1) Maximize the short and long-term value and efficiency of the assets financed by ADB; 2) provide continuous water supply (24 hours a day, 7 days a week); 3) reduce NRW; 4) reduce electricity costs; and 5) provide a plan for the long-term successful operations of the newly installed water and wastewater systems.

The study revealed that expertise in various aspects of O&M needs to be built as the lack thereof has been hampering the provision of services. For example, the high NRW in Kutaisi was attributed to, among others, the lack of training in management, and use of modern leak detection methods to support infrastructure rehabilitation with optimized operations practices. The proposed action plan will help address the leakage issue and ensure 24×7 water supply.

The high power cost was also seen to be linked to NRW. Better leakage control, together with recommended measures towards proper management, billing and operations could result to electricity savings of up to 50 percent.

Appropriate expertise to manage the sewerage systems and wastewater treatment plants was also deemed necessary to keep the infrastructure in proper operating conditions. Otherwise, the current state could lead to disrepair of the new systems and inability to realize their investment value.

The study further showed options for better asset management, which included the preparation of a five-year asset maintenance plan. Meanwhile, to improve customer service efficiency, the proposed action plan hinges on the need to bring the service up to international standards.

Despite the serious issues, the study has seen the dedication of UWSCG personnel to operate their systems in challenging conditions and improve the delivery of water services for their customers.

Moving forward, tackling the problems and meeting the above objectives would require an institutional support to strengthen the sector and utility governance through policy and institutional reforms including tariff rationalization, corporatization, human resource reforms, reorganization and restructuring of key business units, and project loan to improve operational efficiency and maintenance (i.e. investments in technology, equipment).

A public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement that could attract the interest of an international operator with the needed resources and expertise should be developed to better optimize the UWSCG organization, staff, resources and capacities.

Overall, an important lesson derived from the study is that, “Addressing the operational aspects during the planning and design is strongly recommended for future infrastructure projects and can have significant, positive impacts on the short and long term viability of the investment and the long-term operational improvements to the region” the report states.

Photos:

  1. Overview of Ureki Biological System

2. Ureki Grit Removal System

3. Customers use elevated storage tanks to overcome rationing

4. Poor Quality Meter Boxes

5. Domestic meter installation in Kutaisi

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