USAID's Commercialization of Afghanistan Water and Sanitation Activity (CAWSA) program was designed to develop a viable commercial business model for urban water and sanitation service delivery in Afghanistan. The project worked with local units of the Afghan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Corporation (AUWSSC), the country's central authority on water supply and sewage, in the cities of Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif, Ghazni, and Gardez to assist with improving water supply management. Later during its implementation, USAID extended the project to focus on Kandahar and four satellite towns. In additions to AWSSC, the project worked closely with provincial water departments, and other donors to commercialize the urban water sector, increase cost recovery, and improve management.
At the beginning of its implementation, CAWSA assessed the local utilities to determine their baseline physical condition, financing, management capabilities, and other resources. Based on the initial assessments, the project deployed practical on-the-job training and technical assistance to meet local needs. The project provided much needed management training, including improving the accuracy and effectiveness of financial and administrative reports and procedures, and established key monitoring and evaluations methods and practices. These basic skills were supplemented with additional training on water utility management, basic water works operation, water testing and quality control, water distribution, and conservation programs.
- Improvements in physical infrastructure included rehabilitation of pump stations, extensions of pipe networks, and repair of dilapidated buildings and other damaged property.
- CAWSA teams, with water supply department technical teams, developed GIS maps of existing networks to guide maintenance.
- Water supply departments recruited interns to read meters, deliver bills, and enforce collection of delinquent accounts, resulting in increased revenues and conversion of illegal connections to official ones.
- These improved collection practices helped the water departments increase their cost coverage. Each department more than achieved its target increase in cost recovery.
- The Cabinet of Ministers of the Afghanistan government approved an increase in the fee per cubic meter for water—a move that improves the ability of the departments to recover costs.
- Departments made tangible customer service improvements, including hotlines, customer care centers, relocation of inconvenient offices to provide “one-stop shopping,” better customer communications, and computerized complaint tracking and customer records systems, leading to a decrease in delinquencies by unhappy customers.
- CAWSA procured motorcycles and three-wheeled vehicles for field inspectors and technical repair crews. Elapsed time between an emergency call and the arrival of a repair crew with replacement parts was reduced significantly.
- CAWSA trained water supply departments to prepare infrastructure project funding requests, including CAD software design preparation and budget planning, for submission to provincial planning committees and other donors for funding, resulting in significant leveraging of additional investment resources.
- CAWSA developed a technical operations and maintenance manual to help standardize AUWSSC infrastructure, operations, reporting systems, and maintenance activities for all of its local water supply departments countrywide. The manual was customized to reflect the equipment in each water supply department and is available in English, Dari, and Pashtu. It is issued in loose-leaf binder format so it can be easily updated with new material.
- AUWSSC, with CAWSA assistance, developed annual corporate financial reporting based on actual performance of its network; improved communications with water supply departments; and received both organizational development assistance and financial advice to finalize its plans to integrate all CAWSA-assisted water supply departments and their satellites into the corporate holding company structure and resolve longstanding auditing and financial problems.
- In April 2013 CAWSA convened the first annual seminar for all the directors of strategic business units under AUWSSC. Meeting in Mazar-e-Sharif, the directors discussed issues and challenges and recommended improvements related to management, administration and facilities, and technical operations. They also requested an opportunity to convene regularly.
- The project team coordinated and managed a “study tour” for water utility staff from Kandahar, Zaranj, Mehtarlam, and Lashkar Gah to visit the AUWSSC strategic business unit (local municipal water provider) in the western Afghanistan city of Herat. During the study tour, water utility staff learned about management and engineering practices carried out in the Herat locality.