Association of Private Water Operators (APWO) in Uganda: Affordable and safe water for the urban poor

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Publication Date: 
01 September 2007
Winifred N.Karugu and Diane Nduta Kanyagia
UN Millennium Development Goal: 
Promote gender equality and empower women
Reduce child mortality
Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Develop a global partnership for development

Of Uganda's 21 million people, more than 2 million live in small towns with poor water supplies. Most people in these towns are low income, and their lack of water aggravates poverty and encourages diseases. Initially, reforms in water and sanitation came through government-sponsored boreholes in villages across the country. In 2003, however, Uganda developed a new model to address the water needs of low-income residents in small towns, based on a private-public partnership among government, development partners, local councils and private water operators. The government finds sites, drills boreholes, facilitates community land purchase and subsidizes installments. The private operator distributes water, checks safety and captures the profits. The community water board owns assets and sets tariffs and policies. The model brought access to water to 490,000 people in 57 small towns through such innovative systems as coin-operated water kiosks. In 2006 there were 18,944 connections, with annual turnover of 2 billion Ugandan shillings ($1.2 million) a year. The operators also employ more than 800 people.

Citation: Karugu, Winifred and Kanyagia, Diane N. "Association of Private Water Operators in Uganda: Affordable and Safe Water for the Urban Poor." GIM Case Study No. A008. New York: United Nations Development Programme, 2008