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Water supply - Hitosa project, LIC example

An example of a local scheme in an LIC or NEE to increase sustainable supplies of water.
Why is water important in LICs?

In HICs we take clean water for granted.  We also have excellent sanitation to deal with our waste water and prevent disease.  In many Low Income Countries and even in Newly Emerging Economies they do not always have these things.  In Ethiopia, a LIC, 42 million people live without improved water and 71 million people live without improved sanitation.  Recall that according to Water Aid;
• Around 700,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. That's almost 2,000 children a day
• 768 million people in the world don't have access to safe water. This is roughly one in ten of the world's population
• 2.5 billion people don't have access to adequate sanitation, almost two-fifths of the world's population.
• More than one fifth of the world’s population live in areas of water scarcity, where there isn’t enough water to meet everybody’s needs.
What strategies are LICS using?
A range of strategies are employed from huge dams such as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam or Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique.  There are also hand dug wells, tube wells and boreholes, the harvesting of rainwater locally, recycling schemes and gravity fed schemes. Some of these are funded by governments, but many rely upon overseas aid from HICs and others from international aid organisations such as WaterAid.

Ethiopia fact file
• Population: 102 million (2016 estimate)
• Per capita income: on average, each person earns $590 each year (2016)
• Economy: The country is heavily dependent on agriculture
• Capital: Addis Ababa (population – 2.11 million)
• People lacking access to "improved" water - 42 million (2015).
• People without access to "improved" sanitation - 71 million (2015)

The Hitosa Project, Ethiopia
Hitosa,is an area of the Arsi zone and is a largely rural part of Ethiopia.  The administrative centre is Iteya. It is situated 160 km south east of Addis Ababa. The scheme was implemented by the community with help from the Ethiopian Red Cross Society and the Oromia Water, Mineral and Energy Resources Development Bureau (OWMERDB) and Water Aid.

The scheme is a spring catchment and development project. The project was needed because Hitosa Woreda has very few reliable water sources. The lowlands below 1900m are hot and very dry with no permanent surface water, with large earth dams as the main source of water. The middle level plains of 2,200m elevation are extensively farmed for wheat, barley and oil producing crops. This is where 70% of the Hitosa water scheme users live. Previously, the community collected their water from a few shallow rivers and just one spring. Rainfall is also variable in the region, with a noticeable dry season.


Location of Hitosa Project

The location of the Hitosa Project

How the scheme worked
This scheme is a gravity fed water project.  This is because water is transferred from areas higher up and gravity is used to distribute water to people in lower lying areas. 

Water for the scheme comes from springs on the high slopes of Mount Bada, which is over 4,000m high. The amount captured for the scheme is 66% of the dry season output of the springs. The system takes the water through 140 km of pipe to 122 public water points and 143 private connections. The scheme was designed to supply 67,000 people with 25 litres per day and covers 32 separate communities and three small towns. The overall cost of the project was £1,084,213, with contributions from the local community in kind and in cash (17%), the OWMERDB and Ethiopian Red Cross (4%), ODA (25%) and WaterAid (54%).



Adama Climate Climate map Ethiopia

Successes of the project
1. It was a well-designed, large-scale project was constructed which serves over 65,000 people along 140 km pipeline in 32 villages and three small towns.
2. The project is completely community managed. Construction was completed on time and within cost, with the enthusiasm and commitment of community members.
3. The project overcame early problems with participation and managed to unite all communities within the project area.
4. Money from tariffs is well managed and people trust the system they pay into. There is no misuse of funds.


5. The provision of water had direct economic benefits. Quite a few families became involved in cattle fattening and many new businesses were established in the small towns.

Issues with the project
1. Initially community mobilisation was under-resourced, resulting in staff being overstretched and communities not understanding the project or showing interest in participating.
2. Some members of the OWMERDB oppose the level of control of the community management system.
3. The pipeline, supplied from the UK, may be too costly and inaccessible for replacement in thirty years' time.
4. Hygiene education was implemented as an afterthought and treated as a separate component to the engineering work. Thus, little effort, staff commitment or resources were put into hygiene education and sanitation. The few hygiene education activities carried out were of poor quality.
5. There was little local interest, awareness and commitment to hygiene education and sanitation activities.
6. Livestock and people are using the water and this has led to some disputes and affected hygiene at overflow sites and some tap-stands
7. Some people were not happy with the cost (tariff) of the water
8. The original project design was to provide 25 litres per day per person to a population of 70,000 in a period of 15 years. This target will be reached within 10 years because in-migration has been higher than expected and nearby communities travel to the tap-stands to buy the water.


The Hitosa project shows that despite having difficulties to overcome it is possible to provide water to the world’s poorest people.  It also shows that gravity water supply schemes, even ones as extensive as this, are technically simple and can be operated, maintained and managed by people without specialised skills.  However, perhaps with the integration of a clear sanitation scheme even greater things can be achieved.
Ethiopia wtaer

Ethiopian children play in the water of a well built by Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion
By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Lindsey [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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