Water sector reform

Project description

Title: Water sector reform
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Albania
Leading executing agency: Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure
Overall term: 2009 to 2015

Despite having plentiful water resources, Albania still lacks a safe and reliable drinking water supply. Wastewater is seldom treated, posing a risk to both people and the environment. The majority of the country’s water utility companies are not in a position to ensure access to clean drinking water or hygienic sanitation services on account of dilapidated infrastructure, high rates of water loss, budgetary deficits, weak service capabilities and low income.

In the summer of 2014, Albania was granted the official status of candidate country for EU accession. This new status requires compliance with current EU standards, a goal which Albania is still far from reaching.

The regulatory and management capacities of institutions in the water supply and waste water management sector have improved. Water utility companies are in a better position to ensure access to clean drinking water and hygienic sanitation services.

The water sector is one of the priority areas of German development cooperation with Albania. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ and KfW Development Bank are jointly active in Albania. The primary areas of intervention within the EU convergence process include clean drinking water for everyone at all times, the collection and treatment of all waste water wherever possible, and environmental protection that includes keeping all bodies of water in good condition.

The project supports the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (MIT) in implementing reforms in the water sector. More than twenty municipal water supply companies and their national association are provided with support in increasing the energy efficiency of their operations. The Albanian Water Regulatory Authority (WRA) is being strengthened so that it can efficiently fulfil its designated functions.

In addition to KfW Development Bank, the project works closely with relevant programmes being carried out by other donors, especially the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the World Bank, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

An official strategy for the water sector was approved in September 2011. With support from this project, good governance in the water sector was included in the strategy as a binding obligation and the human right to water and sanitation services was also made a priority. Several key elements of EU Water Framework Directive are part of the strategy, such as the obligation to provide a comprehensive supply and the cost recovery principle.

The results of detailed energy scans carried out at twelve supply companies have found that the surveyed pump systems have average energy efficiency rates of only 25-30 per cent. In addition there are a large number of transport pipelines that are either undersized and/or were originally intended for other uses. Huge potential therefore exists for increased energy efficiency and optimisation. In the coastal city of Himara, up to EUR 13,000 in energy costs can be saved annually following an initial investment of EUR 60,000. The city of Erseka has the potential to save EUR 35,000 annually on electricity costs by switching from pumps to the use of supply equipment that utilises gravity. Through an additional investment of EUR 400,000, this system could be completely overhauled and made to produce 0.4 GWh of hydroelectricity annually through the use of pipe turbines – which would correspond to an additional income of EUR 30,000 per year.

Settlement patterns in Albania favour the use of small-scale wastewater treatment facilities. This project assisted in building a pilot facility – the SOS Children’s Village plant-based wastewater treatment facility in Tirana – and helped ensure the proper operation of the facility. Frequent waste water analyses confirm that this facility operates both successfully and cost-effectively. Based on this, national standards and manuals for small-scale wastewater treatment facilities have been developed and circulated.

Owing to intensive advisory services, the Water Regulatory Authority has been able to continually professionalise the work it does, including measures that contribute to implementing the human right to clean drinking water and sanitation services. A total of 48 of the 58 water service and waste water management companies in the country have already been licensed, while 45 companies make use of tariffs that have been approved by a regulator. Additionally, a regulatory law is currently being developed. The focus of this law includes socially acceptable tariffs, the licensing of all service providers, and performance reviews of the service providers based on reliable operations data.


Hermann Plumm