Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

Philippines: Manila Water Successfully Reduces Water Losses Using Multipronged Strategy
October 2006

Strategic zoning, gaining the public's trust, and technological innovations are just some of the components of Manila Water's multipronged strategy for reducing nonrevenue water (NRW). Will this strategy elevate the company to the ranks of the best water utilities in Asia? A WATER UTILITY'S REALIZATION When Manila Water took over the operations of the stateowned Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in the Metro Manila's East Zone in 1997, the water network system was poorly managed and very inefficient. The network had deteriorated lines, illegal connections were widespread, and nonrevenue water (NRW) was at a high 63%. Manila Water realized early on that the effective management of NRW is crucial to the goal of serving more people. Less water losses meant more water to be supplied to more people. The product of this realization is Manila Water's multipronged NRW reduction strategy.

Empowered to make important decisions, TBMs and DOs have taken accountability and ownership of their respective DMZs and DMAs. A significant number of them underwent intensive skills-building trainings and workshops. From being field assistants, customer service support agents, and meter readers, they have now become experts in water supply management and NRW reduction. CUSTOMER SATISFACTION GUARANTEED Constant communication with customers helped TBMs and DOs to establish close working relations with communities and gain public trust. Community leaders and representatives counted on TBMs and DOs whenever they had water problems or other concerns. Eventually, customers themselves were policing their own neighborhood, reporting illegal connections or tampered water meters to Manila Water. The company's flagship program for the urban poor, 'Tubig Para Sa Barangay' (TPSB) or Water for the Community, has also proven to be an effective way of diminishing the high rates of illegal connections in depressed communities and informal settlements. As of June this year, Manila Water has completed over 500 TPSB projects all over the East Zone, serving a total of 900,000 poor people, and further reducing NRW.

Chart 1: Manila Water executed major capital programs amounting to P19 billion to replace and rehabilitate over 1,440 km of pipelines

DIVIDE, CONQUER, AND EMPOWER Manila Water made crucial adjustments within its organization to address NRW and other problems. It introduced the "Territory Management" concept, which divided the East Zone into 148 Demand Monitoring Zones (DMZs) based on hydraulic boundaries. This approach led to the appointment of Territory Business Managers (TBMs), whose task is to monitor the demand, supply, and variations between the inflow and outflow of water in each DMZ. To facilitate easier management, DMZs were further subdivided into District Metering Areas (DMAs), each handled by a District Officer (DO). To date, Manila Water has formed and commissioned 931 DMAs all over the East Zone.
Chart 2: Photo shows the number of "Water for the Community" projects completed all over the East Zone of Metro Manila since 1997

TECHNOLOGICAL UPGRADES A MUST Manila Water also realized that an efficient supply and pressure management system, as well as a massive pipe replacement program, are necessary to address the high NRW level they inherited upon taking over the system. Old asbestos cement pipes, and galvanized iron and cast iron pipes, which were prone to leaks and breakage, were replaced. The structure of primary water lines was also strengthened to eliminate further losses, starting in areas with high occurrences of leaks and pipe bursts, and areas prone to dirty water incidences. Since 1997, Manila Water has invested a total of PhP19 billion to rehabilitate and replace over 1,440 kilometers of pipes. In 2004, the concept of "Zero NRW DMAs" was introduced. A zero NRW DMA means that the DMA registers very minimal water losses. Major pipe-laying and pipereplacement activities were done in priority DMAs. Furthermore, isolation and control valves were installed to make the areas easier to manage and monitor. Manila Water currently has 507 zero NRW DMAs, and the company is doing its best so that its NRW level comes at par with the more efficient cities in Asia. Manila Water also recognized that having a centralized system, with 97% of treated water delivered to customers through an intricate network of pipelines, is prone to risks and can compromise the system's efficiency. Decentralization of the distribution system began realigning existing water mainlines. Other programs which contributed to the significant drop in NRW include Cleaning up and closing all abandoned service pipes and mainlines Replacing and reconditioning defective and inaccurate water meters Rehabilitating old and rusted service pipes Installing Pressure Reducing Valves to adjust water pressure and prevent pipe bursts MANILA WATER: INTO THE FUTURE With all these initiatives, Manila Water was able to notably reduce NRW from 63% in 1997 to 29.9% in 2006. Water recovered from previous leaks and system inefficiencies was translated to water delivered to more customers. The billed volume of water has gone up to 938 million liters per day— more than twice the 1997 figure. Manila Water has also expanded its customer base to 803,000 households compared to only 325,000 in 1997. Out of this number, 148,000 households come from the lowincome sector, which have been served via the TPSB program.

With an average annual target of PhP5 billion for major capital programs and NRW reduction, Manila Water will continue to look for new and appropriate technology and approaches to strengthen its operations. Given a few more years, Manila Water expects to join the ranks of the more efficient water system operators in the region.

Chart 3: Because of an effective NRW reduction strategy, Manila Water was able to bring down systems losses to below 30%

RELATED LINK Reducing Nonrevenue Water in Asia: A Governance Challenge

This story was contributed by Carla Kim of Manila Water Co, Inc. The views expressed in this article are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. Terminology used may not necessarily be consistent with ADB official terms. *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in October 2006: The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADB’s member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADB’s Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.

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