Attaining operational efficiency through better nonrevenue water management in Viet Nam
Nghe An is considered the largest province in Viet Nam in terms of land area.
Its capital, Vinh City, is the biggest city and an economic and cultural center of the province. Located in the North Central coast of the country, it is also considered as a vital transportation hub in the East-West economic corridor, linking the country with Myanmar, Thailand, and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). Home to about 500,000 people, the city’s economy is predominantly comprised of the service and industrial sectors. With a rapidly growing population and vibrant economy, demand for better and more efficient basic infrastructure and services is expected to increase over the coming years.
The water supply for the entire province is handled by Nghe An Water Supply One Limited Company (NAWASCO) and smaller utilities Cua Lo and Thai Hoa. A state-owned municipal water supply service company, NAWASCO is responsible for sourcing, treating, and delivering potable water supply to an estimated 94,000 customers, covering Vinh City and 10 district cities in the mountainous regions of the province. As part of its commitment to improve the delivery services, NAWASCO has entered into a loan agreement under the ADB-funded Water Sector Investment Program (WSIP) to finance a NRW reduction project.
Complementing the WSIP project is a twinning arrangement with VEI. The Dutch firm is committed to supporting water companies in developing countries to improve service levels especially for the urban poor.
To drive the partnership forward, VEI focused on increasing NAWASCO’s operational efficiency by managing its NRW. In a span of 16 months, NAWASCO personnel underwent intensive training on the various facets of NRW management. The first phase involved the formation of a pilot DMA, comprising: selection of a pilot DMA (Branch 5), conduct of pressure measurements, and establishment and calibration of a hydraulic model. The second phase included both classroom and onsite NRW management, which consisted of data collection and updating of billing system and assets of the pilot DMA, classroom trainings on NRW and DMA management, conduct of step tests, performing data analysis to calculate water balance, and hands-on training on leak detection and repairs, as well as meter reading and calibration of water meters. The last phase involved a site visit to Ho Chi Minh City to interact with the five distribution companies of Saigon Water Corporation (SAWACO), which VEI was working with. These distribution companies shared the NRW reduction techniques they learned.
The WOP produced immediate results in such a short period. Aside from being able to establish a DMA and apply various NRW reduction methodologies, the twinning arrangement saw a marked improvement in NRW level in the DMA pilot. From a recorded 35.8% NRW level in July 2016, this was reduced to 26.5% in December of the same year.
The partnership encouraged NAWASCO to set bigger and more ambitious goals for them to achieve. Given the newly-acquired skill set of its personnel on NRW management, the establishment of more DMAs spread across its distribution system will be pursued based on a systematic approach to achieve operational efficiency on a grander scale.