Improving drinking water supply 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)
Co-funded by: European Union (EU)
Country: Albania
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy
Overall term: 2016 to 2021



Having become an official candidate for EU accession in 2014, Albania is now committed to bringing its water and sanitation sector up to EU standards. The country has sufficient water resources to meet its needs, if the management of those resources were adapted appropriately. For this reason, the government is currently implementing numerous reforms. For instance, the administrative and territorial reform has reduced the number of municipalities and local authorities from 300 to 61. Public services are being progressively decentralised. The territorial reforms in the areas of water supply and sanitation continue to present huge challenges to the country and the local authorities.

The water and sanitation utilities are no longer centrally managed. Instead, their ownership is being transferred to the cities and municipalities, and they have effectively become independent companies overnight. Many of these service providers, especially the smaller ones, are finding it difficult to cope with this transition. The water infrastructure is obsolete, and the country is not adapted to prevailing conditions. There is often a shortage of relevant expertise to meet all the operational needs, and customer orientation is poor. For these reasons, the utilities are largely unable to provide a reliable drinking water supply or wastewater collection and treatment services. The population’s dissatisfaction with their water services mostly 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, but only about half of rural households, where similarly only 50 per cent of households are connected to the sewerage system. Of 11 sewage treatment plants, ten are in operation, and these treat only around 13 per cent of all wastewater. The rest is discharged untreated into rivers, lakes and the sea.


Water sector institutions and service providers have improved their commercial and technical expertise. This has led to better quality of drinking water and sanitation services. Customer service, customer management and transparency have improved.



The project is supporting the Albanian Government, as well as cities, local authorities and their water providers with the implementation of the water sector reform.

The emphasis is on cooperation with the National Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy and the national authority for drinking water, sanitation and waste infrastructure. An additional partner is the water regulator. Due to the overarching statutory tasks incumbent on the Ministry, the project’s outreach extends to all cities. Water users and the public can communicate more easily with the institutions using the online customer portal for service providers and through the national authority for drinking water, sanitation and waste infrastructure.

The project is carrying out pilot schemes in the towns of Cerrik, Peqin and Himara. It is assisting the water service providers in their transition to fully functional municipal corporations, capable of delivering reliable water supply and sanitation services. These municipalities should serve as examples of best practices and as role models for the development of water service providers around the country. Co-financing from the European Union has allowed the expansion of the project to other towns and local authorities in the coastal region, from Shkodra to Saranda. Here, the project is supported by the consulting companies ARGE, AHT Group, Dorsch and ICE.

The national water association, SHUKALB, is another important partner. Together with the project, the association is implementing many measures to strengthen the technical resources and performance of the organisations, providing basic and further training for both professionals and managerial staff. Regional networks also play an important role in facilitating exchange between regional, national and local actors, and the project is cooperating closely with the GIZ regional project for the modernisation of municipal services in the Balkan region.

The improvement of 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. The project being co-financed by the European Union aims to improve sanitation management and the treatment of wastewater along the Albanian coast and to increase expertise. The two projects thus complement each other and contribute to preparations for the EU accession negotiations. Other donors are also cooperating closely, for example the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the World Bank and the Delegation of the European Union to Albania.



  • With the support of the project, the Albanian Government has designed a new water sector network and a new national water sector strategy (2018-2030). Both of these documents serve to strengthen the reforms and define the responsibilities and competences involved. The legal harmonisation is supported by a Regulatory Impact Statement and a Strategic Environmental Assessment. Thus, the Albanian Government now has decision-making tools at its disposal. 
  • Performance contracts between the National Agency for Water, Sewage and Waste Infrastructure (AKUM) and Albanian cities and municipalities are adjusted annually and help to improve services and cost recovery for water suppliers.
  • Thanks to a new implementation regulation and restructuring processes, as well as the allocation of responsibilities and description of roles, AKUM is now better placed to undertake tasks and make investments.
  • In the three partner towns of Cerrik, Peqin and Himara, cost recovery and water supplier services have improved due to technical adjustments and management processes. As a result, large parts of the supply areas now have a 24-hour water supply. The water quality has significantly improved thanks to the automatic disinfection of the network, and water losses have also been reduced. Energy savings have also been achieved by means of energy efficient pumps and time management. Business plans and roadmaps underpin the improvements in the services.
  • Numerous awareness campaigns and partner-specific training measures have prompted intensive exchanges between the various institutions and the water service providers.
  • Cooperation for ancillary actors in the water supply and sanitation services has improved.