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Improving water supply services through water loss management in Ho Chi Minh, Viet Nam

July 2017

Located in the southeastern portion of Viet Nam, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in the country and considered as its economic hub.


Home to various export processing zones and industrial parks, the city also thrives in other industries such as mining, tourism, agriculture, and seafood processing. Sustaining the city’s various economic activities demands that critical basic infrastructure and services are reliable.


Provision and maintenance of Ho Chi Minh’s water supply rests on the shoulders of SAWACO through its subsidiaries. A government-owned and controlled corporation, SAWACO is responsible for sourcing, treating, and delivering potable water supply to an estimated eight million inhabitants in Ho Chi Minh.


Faced with the great challenge of coping with a rapidly changing city, SAWACO has made significant improvements in its operations, successfully reducing its water losses through its own efforts and other innovative means, such as partnerships with the private sector for operation and maintenance contracting on water loss management.


As a growing company looking for additional means to raise its productivity and to better cater to its customers’ needs, SAWACO requested to be included in ADB’s WOPs program with the goal of training a pool of trainers who can then train a bigger group within the organization. The training is focused on water loss management and improving water supply operations. While technical know-how is available, the skills to transfer this knowledge to other colleagues had to be developed.


Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA) of Thailand served as their mentor under the WOPs program. This Thai organization is responsible for the water services of about 12 million residents in metropolitan Bangkok and the provinces of Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan. MWA is known for supplying good quality water; and in the case of SAWACO, MWA is recognized for its robust training program for employees and external partners. The program is managed by the MWA Waterworks Institute of Thailand.


The twinning partnership was a perfect fit. Guided by the structured methodology of MWAIT, coupled with MWA’s and SAWACO’s technical pool, and complemented by the keen coordination of the two utilities, it was a pleasant case of both parties learning from each other.


Through a series of site visits, on-the-job training sessions, continuous communication over a span of 2 years (August 2014 to August 2016), the partnership focused on:

  • NRW management, particularly on methodologies for pipe rehabilitation, leak detection, and water meter installation in a DMA in one of the subsidiaries, Trung An;

  • Introduction to various information technology (IT) applications specifically distribution monitoring through better and unified data updating and transfer, analysis, and management, and strengthened capabilities of the network operation center; and

  • Design and conduct of trainors’ training workshops to enable selected participants to become qualified mentors to local operators and subsidiaries of SAWACO.


For SAWACO, the exposure of its staff in working with MWA left a valuable imprint as to the direction the corporation wants to pursue. The partnership paved the way to develop a corporate-wide training program and to cultivate a new breed of trainers who will lead the implementation of the program. The testing of NRW management methodologies in real field conditions and appreciation of modern IT applications and its potential to improve water supply operations have served well to develop the skills of the trainers, while improving their technical knowledge.


For MWA, the interaction with SAWACO helped them in their quest to continuously improve their craft and provided a sense of satisfaction and pride emanating from being able to help out a fellow water agency improve its operations through sharing of actual working knowledge and experience.

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