Optimizing water supply services through improved operations in Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Vientiane, home to nearly 800,000 residents (as of 2015), is the capital and the largest city of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR).
It is the driving force of the national economy, in large part due to its thriving tourism industry, which attracts a steady influx of tourists annually thanks to its renowned temples and Buddhist monuments. The inflow of foreign investments in the city over the recent years has also contributed immensely to the country’s overall economic development.
The provision and maintenance of the city’s basic infrastructure and services are vital in sustaining the gains from this reinvigorated economic activity. Interventions that meet the public’s growing needs must also be in place.
In terms of water supply, the responsibility falls on Nam Papa Nakhone Luang (NPNL), a state-owned and-controlled corporation. NPNL is responsible for sourcing, treating, and delivering potable water supply to the residents of six towns and two suburbs in Vientiane.
Water supply coverage is currently estimated at around 67%, comprising about 100,000 service connections. With continued rapid population growth and economic development, estimates point out that NPNL’s daily water supply production rate of around 180,000 m3 (from four water treatment plants) would be direly insuffi cient by 2030.
NPNL and their mentor, Binh Duong Water Supply, Sewerage and Environment (BIWASE) of Viet Nam, agreed to cooperate and seek assistance from ADB for a utility twinning program. Consistent with ADB’s investment programs in the Lao PDR, the twinning program was started in 2015.
BIWASE is responsible for providing water and wastewater services to around 830,000 residents in Binh Duong Province. Its customer base is predominantly composed of residential and industrial users.
The partnership aims to capitalize on the good relations and proximity between Viet Nam and the Lao PDR (the former being the largest foreign direct investor of the latter). The operations of BIWASE is relatively comparable in scale with NPNL, making the twinning arrangement a perfect fit.
The two operators developed a joint work plan sufficient for 19 months, which included site visits, remote consultations, and technical training sessions. More importantly, it focused on increasing operational efficiency, working on:
Leak detection and repair, network pressure management, and meter calibration and replacement;
Data collection, updating and analysis of operations data (e.g., power consumption of plant equipment, water quantity, inventory of water meter installation);
Establishment of pilot DMAs for NRW management and energy efficiency;
Preparation of an operations manual for water treatment plants; and
Billing collection system management.
BIWASE personnel trained NPNL staff in establishing three DMAs(Tatthong, BoO, and Thadeua Villages), providing the latter hands-on experience and better understanding on leak detection and management, computation of NRW levels, and the importance of data collection and management. After completing the twinning program, NPNL continued the practices it started with BIWASE in appreciation of the improvements achieved in its operations