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Developing a water master plan for Lae, Papua New Guinea

July 2017

Water PNG provides water and sanitation services to Papua New Guinea.

Its service area covers 20 provincial towns, of which Lae is considered the biggest. With its close to 30,000 service connections, and an estimated served population of about 350,000 residents, it is considered a large utility in the Pacific.


Water PNG is confronted with a host of issues among which are water availability and quality, difficult hydraulics conditions, customers’ low willingness to pay, and weak management information systems. The situation is further complicated given Water PNG’s countrywide mandate and operation of several independent water systems.


Water PNG has the following priorities, namely: achieving consistent water quality testing, reduction of nonrevenue water (NRW) levels, enhanced asset management, and development of a master plan for Lae. The partnership with HWA will help Water PNG to reach these goals.


Under the Water Operators Partnership (WOPs) program, the partnership was set for 2 years. It commenced on July 2011, with the issue of water quality testing as top priority. Water PNG staff from the Lae Operations Division was mentored by a water quality expert from HWA on conducting a quick diagnosis of water quality practices, facilities, and results.


The absence of a good laboratory for testing purposes was the first hurdle for Water PNG. This was quickly addressed through the generous offering of Unitech, a local university. With the guidance of HWA, Water PNG was able to implement a monitoring program that is fully compliant with World Health Organization and government guidelines. Procurement of new field test instruments was also carried out, which enabled operations staff to monitor results in real time and fine-tune treatment processes accordingly.


The city of Lae was selected as the priority project area for NRW management initiatives. HWA and Water PNG embarked on a remedial program which covered: (i) calibration of fl ow meters; (ii) survey and assessment of existing meters and replacement of failed ones; (iii) re-establishment of zone metering; iv) upgrading of operating procedures; and (v) training and mentoring of staff.


Within 3 months, Lae’s NRW level was reduced to 35% from a previous high of 46%. Similar remedial programs were conducted in the provincial towns of Madang, Mount Hagen, and Wewak, which showed promising results in terms of minimizing NRW increasing revenues, and improving overall service.


As for working on asset management, HWA’s review yielded the following observations: assets are unable to perform at optimal levels due to either inappropriate operational practices or poor maintenance, and absence of instrumentation and lack of data further complicated the situation. To remedy this, nonworking equipment were replaced and other assets were refurbished. In addition, a senior staff trained in asset inventory was hired.


To date, all assets in Water PNG’s inventory have been recorded in an asset register. This asset register is used to progressively schedule and follow equipment maintenance activities.


Lastly, HWA and Water PNG prepared a technical brief for Lae covering areas such as water resources, water distribution, and wastewater management. This informed the preparation of Lae’s master plan, which included the development of a hydraulic model and the procurement of 2 new low-pressure pumps, both for Water PNG’s continuous eff orts to reduce its NRW levels.

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