Designing Sustainable Water Supply Systems in Africa

Helping bring clean water and effective delivery systems to Liberia to address water sector challenges
Apr 16, 2018 8:00 AM ET

Tetra Tech is bringing clean water and effective delivery systems to Liberia to address water sector challenges.

Piped drinking water has not flowed in most of Liberia's secondary cities for a quarter century. Shortly after the Liberia civil conflict began in 1989, these systems were destroyed or fell into disrepair, leaving urban residents dependent on either unreliable or contaminated water sources like shallow wells and surface waters. As a result of the war, local capacity in water supply engineering, operations, maintenance, and management became limited or non-existent. Tetra Tech is implementing the Liberia Municipal Water Project (LMWP I & II), which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

LMWP I & II aim to provide improved water supply access to 90 percent of the population in three county capitals - Robertsport, Voinjama, and Sanniquellie - with infrastructure managed by locally based entities that have the financial and technical capacity to sustain the service.

Under LMWP I, which ran from 2011 to 2016, Tetra Tech worked closely with the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC) and local stakeholders to facilitate the development of water supply master plans for each city that included participation from local stakeholders. Tetra Tech completed detailed construction designs for a Capital Improvement Project (CIP) for all three cities, supported the tendering process, led a successful construction kickoff, and began providing construction quality assurance.

Tetra Tech facilitated consensus from all stakeholders on a new institutional framework for utility management that adds national and local accountability with a focus on financial stability. We helped establish local steering committees that served as a mechanism for public participation in planning and operational oversight for the first time. Through on-the-job and classroom trainings, Tetra Tech strengthened the capacity of LWSC, local stakeholders, and the private sector to plan, construct, operate, and manage water infrastructure, including setting cost-reflective tariffs, instituting financial procedures, and monitoring technical and financial performance indicators and progress toward cost recovery goals.

In Robertsport, an initial phase of the CIP now serves hundreds of households, and the main elements of the new institutional framework are in place. By 2016, the system had become the primary drinking water source for more than half of Robertsport's residents, selling hundreds of thousands of jerricans of water via kiosks and reducing distances traveled to obtain water by more than half. The system increased its cost recovery from 21 percent in 2013 to 67 percent in 2016.

Under LMWP II, which will run through 2020, Tetra Tech is continuing its construction quality assurance role and conducting institutional support and capacity building to prepare for operations. When construction is completed in 2018, an estimated 30,000 people will have access to clean, piped water for the first time in nearly three decades. Tetra Tech will provide ongoing management and operational support during the first two years of system operation.