Customer and performance-oriented water and sanitation services

Project description

Project title: Customer and performance-oriented drinking water and sanitation services
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Albania
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy
Overall term: 2016 to 2019



Having become an official candidate for EU accession in 2014, Albania is now committed to bringing its water sector up to EU standards. The country has adequate water resources to ensure self-sufficiency, provided they are managed properly.

Numerous reforms are currently in progress which will result in a fundamental restructuring of the country’s water sector. For instance, the administrative and territorial reform has reduced the number of local government units and municipalities from over 300 to 61. Reforming public services for provision on a decentralised basis together with the ongoing reform of the water sector is placing immense demands at both national and local level.

Instead of being managed centrally, ownership of the water and sanitation utilities has been transferred to the cities and municipalities, effectively turning them into independent companies overnight. Many of these service providers – especially the smaller ones – are finding it difficult to cope with this transition. Given the obsolete water infrastructure, which is out of sync with the country’s development, the lack of know-how with regard to all operational requirements and poor customer orientation, most of these companies are not able to provide a reliable supply of drinking water. The population’s dissatisfaction with their water services manifests itself in a high percentage of unpaid bills. Massive water losses, overstaffing, high energy costs and poor management and planning prevent the companies from working cost effectively and leave them dependent on government subsidies.

More than 80 per cent of households in the cities and municipalities are connected to the drinking water supply network, compared to barely half of rural households. Likewise, only 50 per cent of households are connected to the sewerage system. A mere 6 out of 9 clarification plants are in operation, treating only around 10 per cent of all wastewater. The remainder is discharged untreated into rivers, lakes and the sea.



Water sector institutions and service providers have improved their commercial and technical expertise. They are able to ensure adequate water supply and sanitation services that offer greater transparency, cost efficiency and customer orientation. Together with the national agencies, they implement the key components of the water sector reform, including performance orientation and accountability.


The water sector is a priority area of German cooperation with Albania. Working on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ and KfW Development Bank are engaged in an intensive exchange and close collaboration in Albania through their mutually complementary projects. Since Germany is spearheading donor coordination, GIZ and KfW also harmonise their activities closely with other donors and programmes in this sector. These include the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the World Bank and Delegation of the European Union to Albania.

The Albanian Government attaches high priority to territorial reform and to the reorganisation of municipal water and sanitation companies. The new financing and implementation strategy makes for better municipal service delivery in the water sector. The provision of drinking water, wastewater collection and treatment is thus coupled with rising levels of efficiency and cost coverage as well as greater transparency and accountability.

The project cooperates with the national Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy, the national drinking water and wastewater authority (AKUK) and with the independent Albanian Water Regulatory Authority (WRA). Regional and local partners include towns, cities, municipalities and water service providers. Due to the overarching statutory tasks incumbent on the Ministry, the project’s outreach extends to all towns and cities. Those with more than 15,000 water connections engage in the project via the service providers’ customer portals, which are either to be set up or expanded accordingly.


Three smaller municipalities and cities – Cerrik, Peqin and Himara – have been selected for the rollout of pilot projects designed to assist water service providers with their transition to fully operational municipal corporations capable of ensuring reliable water supply and sanitation services. They are to act as examples of best practices and as role models nationwide for the development of water service providers.

The Water Supply and Sewerage Association of Albania (SHUKALB) has an important role to play in generating resources and capacity building and in providing basic and further training for professionals and managerial staff. Regional networks are also instrumental in facilitating exchange between regional, national and local actors.