Improvements to Water Supply in Tanzania through Enabling Local Management


About 60 percent of Tanzanians have access to an improved water source. Most of the unmet need is located in small towns and rural communities where broken infrastructure, unmetered water points, and water rationing is commonplace.

The USAID Water Resources Integration Development Initiative (WARIDI) is working with local government authorities and grantees in Njombe District to improve governance of water systems, financial management, maintenance, and operations. Under the leadership of the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASA), the Wanginyi Community is expanding water access and taking advantage of internal and external financing to fund maintenance and extension of water services that reach more people. This video features WARIDI’s work on water supply construction.  

Improved management has unlocked competitive sources of public and private funding, like payments by result funds, from the Ministry of Water, which provide local government authorities with financial incentive to maintain and expand rural water supply infrastructure. “Coupled with private sources of financing that can be backed through local banks, improvements in service delivery and revenue collection are supporting community water supply organizations to play a major role in expanding service to the 27 million Tanzanians who need access to clean water,” said WARIDI Project Director Bigambo Nandiga.

Achieving Locally Sustained Results That Make a Big Difference 

Through its Community Owned Water Supply Organization (COWSO), the local organization responsible for management of the water scheme, the Wanginyi Community has improved management and operations of the water system and is taking advantage of internal and external financing to fund maintenance and extension of water services to reach more people. The COWSO has opened its first bank account, doubled its capacity, and installed meters at all 41 water points serving nearly a thousand people. The COWSO also developed a business plan, prepared financial documents to track revenues and expenses, improved record keeping, and set a more sustainable tariff structure that has ensured a steady revenue that allows the organization to further extend its water distribution system to new public water points and schools. 

Boaz Paulo Kabelege, Wanginyi COWSO chairperson, says the improved management system and corrected water tariff has increased revenues from Tanzanian Shilling (TZS) 120,000 to TZS 1,500,000. The COWSO uses new water meters for hands-on training opportunities for installation and meter reading—including public demonstrations of how to calibrate meters for accuracy. Improved metering is helping to control water loss and build trust within the community on the metering system, which legitimizes revenue collection. 

WARIDI has partnered with 20 districts on water supply management across the Wami-Ruvu and Rufiji River basins of Tanzania. The activity has provided the support needed to organize and register 272 COWSOs, 74 percent of which were minimally operational when WARIDI began working with them. After a year of support, most COWSOs are fully operational and serve hundreds of thousands of people. “Long-term improvements in water service delivery will still be a challenge for many COWSOs,” says Megann Mielke, WASH technical advisor for WARIDI. “However, capacity building coupled with external sources of financing present a major opportunity to sustainably scale water service delivery to many more Tanzanians.” 

In 2020, RUWASA is leading the formation and registration of additional Community Based Water Supply Organizations, which have replaced the COWSOs under the Ministry of Water’s Water Supply and Sanitation Act (2019), with WARIDI providing targeted technical assistance and support during the process. Overall, WARIDI and its partners expect to improve access to basic water services for 520,000 Tanzanians by the end of the activity in 2021 through improvements to management and operations, rehabilitation, and construction of piped water systems.

By Leif Kindberg, Deputy Project Director, and Yussuf Kajenje, Communications Specialist, USAID/WARIDI

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Leif Kindberg and
Yussuf Kajenje, USAID/WARIDI