Participation in Urban Water Management Board in Adama/Oromia

Ketema Wakjira Debela, CFGS – Centre for Federalism and Governance Studies, Addis Ababa University

Relevance of the Practice

The urban water supply can be considered as a relevant experience for analyzing people’s participation in local decision-making. Both the water policy and legal frameworks of Ethiopia allows the Urban Water Supply Service Enterprise (UWSSE) to perform its functions autonomously with very limited supervision from the supra-local level. The UWSSE has the duty to cover all its service delivery charges by collecting water tariff from its urban water service customers. Whether the people’s participation in the UWSSE has helped to match the supply and demand for water; whether the participation of the people in water tariff setting and whether there is adequate involvement in the water management board or the supreme decision-making body process is worth describing. For this purpose, Adama, the rapidly urbanizing City of Oromia, is selected as a case to assess the practice of participation in the water management board. The study also highlights how the local communities participate in the rural water service provision and to what extent the urban and rural governments are connected with regard to water supply service issues.

Description of the Practice

Adama is in proximity to and at an optimal distance of 100 km from Addis Ababa. Adama serves as the intersection of the main highways coming from Dire Dawa, Harar, Bale and Arsi, where different imports to the country first arrive. Adama also hosts a number of industrial factories as well as a newly inaugurated industrial park. Ecologically, the city is located in the highly degraded Awash catchment. Because of an easy transportation of alluvial deposits in this catchment, Adama has been exposed to frequent flooding.

Both the physical expansion and the trends of population growth show rapid urbanization of the City of Adama. Under the first master Plan, the areal extent of Adama was 120ha. It had grown to 320ha in 1949, 1000ha in 1957/58, 3140ha in 1995, Adama had grown to a size of 1000ha and 13,665ha in 2004.[1]

In terms of demography, the first Population and Housing Census of 1984 puts the population size of Adama as 77,237. The second and third Population and Housing Censuses of 1994 and 2007 reported 127,842 and 220,212, persons respectively. The CSA population projections of the city for 2012 and 2015 are reported as 282, 974 and 356,344, respectively.[2]

Adama is the second largest in terms of the number of water customers, next only to Addis Ababa. The average output ranges from 19000m3 to 20,000m3 per day while the demand ranges from 35,000m3 to 36, 000m3 per day.[3] The regional standard for water supply for Adama is 80 litre/ capita/ day. The Urban Water Supply Enterprise (UWSE) estimates that the total population for which it provides water supply service from the city and surrounding areas altogether is 440,000. The projected population of Adama city by itself is 356,000. If we take the daily production to be 20,000m3 and compute the coverage of water supply for Adama city, the estimate of water coverage is 56.18 per cent i.e. nearly half of the population could not access water. Put differently, the water consumption is about 45l/day/capita, while the regional water Bureaus’s standard is 80l/s/day.

According to the water policy and legal frameworks, the UWSE is meant to perform its functions autonomously with very limited supervision and support from the regional and federal governments. Also, the UWSSE has been provided with the duty of covering all its service delivery charges by collecting water tariff from its customers. At Oromia regional state level, the Proclamation no 78/2004 for establishment of Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Enterprise along with its Amendment Proclamation no 97/2005 provides for the organizational structure, duties and power of the key organs of the Enterprise, accountability relationships between the Enterprise, Water Management Board and the Regional Water Bureau. The Water Management Board (WMB) is the supreme body of the Enterprise that follows and monitors the overall work of the enterprise. It has the power to examine and approve the annual work program and budget of the enterprise, evaluate the financial and performance reports of the enterprise, determine the structure and salary of the staff of the Enterprise, select and assign the manager of the Enterprise, and can study and amend the rates of charges for the services that the Enterprise provides.

It is the Oromia Bureau of Water and Energy Development (OBWERD) which establishes the WMB for the cities like Adama, and assigning the Chairperson of the WMB is the mandate of the Bureau. The other WMB members include: one person from Regional State’s Water Resource Bureau, one person from city’s Health Office, one person from City’s Women’s Affairs Office, one person from the City’s Finance and Economic Development Office, one person from Branch Office of Electric Power Corporation in the city, one person from Education Office, and two elderly persons representing the local community or customers of the Water Supply Enterprise. Although there is no clear procedure as how the representatives of local community are selected, the practice shows that these representatives are not only politically active but also have close contacts with the city administrators.

The Manager of the Adama water supply enterprise is appointed by the board and is accountable to the same. He or she has the duty to implement the decision of the board. He can employ, manage, and terminate the employment of the workers of the Enterprise water and perform other duties as assigned to him/her by the board. In principle, the Manager of the Enterprise is expected to be appointed based on relevant water related education and work experience. The Water Supply Service Enterprise is accountable to the board established by the bureau, while the bureau is accountable to the regional cabinet which in turn is accountable to the Oromia Regional State Council or the Caffee. The Water Management Board has tried to establish an urban water forum whereby the local people are supposed to participate in and set the water tariff rates and represent customers’ willingness to pay for the service. It is, however, the WMB that passes the final decision to fix the water tariff rates. The urban water forum, composed of different sections of the residents, were just established but it did not play any meaningful role in addressing the water shortage in the city. Thus, the legal and institutional framework sets up long and upward accountability that makes the people’s participation in decision-making weak.

On the one hand, as the information from ACWSSE showed that Mr. Tegenu, who was at the same time the Federal Minister of Water and Energy of Ethiopia, has served as chairperson of the WMB. This shows that the key decision-makers in the board are also key politicians at the supra-local level. On the other hand, the Manager of the Enterprise is in principle expected to be appointed based on relevant water related education and work experience. The case of Adama, however, shows that the selection of the Manager was on political membership and affiliation to OPDO/EPRDF rather than technical and professional competences on urban water supply. Inasmuch as the Manager is inclined to please politicians, it has become difficult to separate the political from the managerial activities, and this has obscured the checks and balances between the regulator and the service provider, and the local people lacks meaningful influence on the water management board. The other members of the WMB are sector heads, not professionals having adequate knowhow of water supply service.

Unlike the urban Water Supply Services Enterprise, rural local government has a differ legal regime for drinking water supply services. As hinted above, the urban drinking water supply is established as Enterprise model that follows the principle of ‘whoever pays can get the service.’  Rural local governments have no power to design and run water projects other than the hand-dug wells, which can be performed by the district’s budget and local community’s contribution. There is another mechanism of Water Supply Committee system for the participation local people in the rural water supply service provision. The water committees are normally selected from the beneficiary community in order to run the regular activity of water supply schemes. The composition of the committee varies according to the water supply schemes. In this case, the member of the committee is seven for motorized schemes and five for shallow wells fitted with hand pumps. The water committee consists of chairman, secretary, treasurer, storekeeper, care takers and counselors. Two of the members of the water committee should, however, be women, and each water committee serves for two years. The chairman/chairwoman reports to the District’s Water Office and to the local community. Whether the water schemes were constructed by the government or non-governmental organizations, the rural water supply committees were practically organized by the rural government’s Water Office. Due to lack of technical and material capacities, the water committees rely on the District’s water office. consequently, the water committees serve as information provider on the status of rural water institutions rather than actually governing it.

Assessment of the Practice

The meetings between the WMB and local people were conducted at times of water supply crises in the City of Adama. The WMB has held limited public hearings with regard to water supply service shortages because the chairperson of the board is barely available for local consultation with the people because he/she is busy somewhere at regional or federal level. The essence of the meeting appears as just gathering the people by the supra-local authorities through the water management board to let them know the decision of the regional water Bureau, and beyond.

The representatives of the customer community in the WMB are not only selected by the politicians but also the public view is not well represented in the water management. There is no clear formal rule for the selection of the representative of the people in the WMB. Though the nature of urban water supply service requires basic technical and hydraulic skills, there is no clear guideline to consider the technical capacity of the members of the WMB. Moreover, the members of the board are dominated by people with official and political views rather than those concerned with the customers’ water demands, and the upward accountability of each of the officials represented in the WMB to the supra local structures (Zone and regional state) makes the participation of local people secondary. Such composition of the WMB barely attains adequate local people participation in the public service provision. In fact, the dominant party system and the control of all layers of government by the same party has enabled the party channel to have replaced the principle of people’s participation in local decision-making.

Both the city administration and the regional state water bureau usually hold meeting with local water committee and selected community representatives on how to resolve the severe shortages of water supply service in the city. Nonetheless, this effort to participate the people in urban water supply service provision came at times of water crises and for attracting and mobilizing the political support from the urban population rather than remaining accountable to the local electorates.

Obviously, water supply service in the City of Adama is dependent on the availability or source of water coming from the surrounding rural administration. Cognizant of this, the official plan of Adama City Water Supply Services Enterprise states that the Enterprise shall provide clean drinking water to both Adama city and its surrounding rural administrations. In practice, Adama city Water Supply Service Enterprise has been providing drinking water to the rural administrations like Wanji because the city takes underground water from such rural areas.  Nonetheless, in concrete terms, it is the regional state water bureau that has got both the mandate and technical capacity to undertake big water projects that could connect and serve both urban and rural residents at a time.

References to Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications

Legal Documents:

Ethiopian Water Resources Management Proclamation no 197/2000

Establishment of Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Service Enterprise of ONRS Proclamation no 78/2004

Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications:

Adama City Administration, ‘Adama Master Plan Revision Project (AMPRP)’ (2004)

Adama City Administration, ‘Adama City Water Service and Sewerage Services Enterprise (ACWSSE)’ (2016)

Adama City Administration, ‘Socio-Economic Profile of Adama’ (2016)

FDRE Ministry of Water and Energy, ‘National Guideline for Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Services, Organizational Set-up’ (2013)

FDRE Ministry of Water Resources, ‘Ethiopian Water Sector Policy Review’ (2001)

Gutema E, ‘The History of Adama’ (MA thesis, Addis Ababa University1996)

Oromia Water, Mines and Energy Bureau, ‘Optimization/Upgrading Report on Adama Water Supply System’ (2012)

—— ‘Oromia Rural Water Supply Schemes Inventory Data Report,’ (2006)

[1] Gutema, ‘The History of Adama’ (MA thesis, Addis Ababa University1996); Adama City Administration, ‘Adama Master Plan Revision Project (AMPRP)’ (2004).

[2] Adama City Administration, ‘Socio-Economic Profile of Adama’ (2016).

[3] Adama City Administration, ‘Adama City Water Service and Sewerage Services Enterprise (ACWSSE)’ (2016).