Somaliland: Private Water Utility versus Public Water Utility: The Case of Borama vs Burao


President of Somaliland H.E Mohamed A. Mahmoud (Siilaanyo) acknowledged the need to have a special ministry for water resources. In June of 2013, the Ministry of Water Resources was separated from the former Ministry of Mining, Energy and Water Resources. In terms of regulatory framework, the current government ratified the Somaliland National Water Act in March of 2011.

Water is scarce resource in Somaliland especially in the urban & pre- urban areas. The rainy seasons are Gu (April-June) and Deyr (September-October). Somaliland is a drought prone country. The average precipitation is 300 mm.

Since its inception, the Ministry of Water Resources’ (MoWR) roles and responsibilities have grown significantly. MoWR has increased the capacity of the water sector and established more focused and better structured system and has built the capacity of the employees at the headquarters, regional & district level. MoWR has enhanced the regional and district offices throughout the country andhas adopted the decentralization policy.

UNICEF has the water sector lead in Somaliland and has been at the forefront of developing & researching the Water, Health and Sanitation (WASH) aspect of meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Likewise, UNICEF is preparing meeting and exceeding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDCs) of the future for women and children in Somaliland.

This paper is going to compare and contrast the Public, Private and Partnership (PPP) model in the city of Borama, Awdal region and the public water utility of Burao Water Agency (BWA) in Tog- dheer region. Both towns are European Union (EU) projects recipients, which is currently being managed and implemented by UNICEF and other partners.

Borama is situated about 120 KM west of Hargeisa, the capital of self-declared republic of Somaliland. The coordinates are 90 56’ N 430 11’ E. The residents are about 120,000 inhabitants. But the city hosts a number of visitors during the summer months. The vast majority of visitors are from the diaspora community and residents of neighboring Djibouti spend the summer months in Borama.

Service Delivery and Management Performance

Residents of Borama have experienced their fair share of public water utility company failure. After long discussions, the residents have agreed to have an alternative system, which can supply the city’s water needs. Public, Private and Partnership models have been introduced to the residents and a capital of $105, 000 was raised to establish Awdal Utility Company (SHABA) in the last quarter of 2003 with technical assistance from UNICEF, USAID and local academics.

A Lease agreement of 10 years has been ratified, which became the pilot model for Somaliland. This will be a triangle relationship between the MoWR, SHABA and Borama Municipality transferring service delivery responsibilities to the private operator in October of 2003. The lease agreement has been renewed for another decade in September of 2013.

According to residents, service has been good. Household connections rose from 130 in 2002 to 5435 by the end of 2009. In 2013, house hold connection was estimated to be 8, 800 customers. The average production is reported to be 2, 250 M3/day.

A study commissioned by Hydroconceil, a consultancy firm in 2002, has identified Borama as the worst water utility company, whereas current research indicates Borama as first in Somaliland towns. The water supply is currently enough, but there are reports that suggest due tointensive abstraction, there is a depletion problem in the near future. The Borama water table suggests 1 to 2 meter per year depletion rate. Water quality is reported to be World Health Organization (WHO) standards ranging from 500 to 1, 000 µS/cm.

Burao Water Agency (BWA)

Burao is the second largest city in Somaliland and the largest livestock market for Somalia. Burao is about 320 KM east of Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. Burao has a population of 450, 000 according to UN-Habitat Geographic Information Systems (GIS) survey conducted in 2014. The coordinates are 90 31 ’26.98” N 450 32’ 13.00 E. The average rainfall is 200 mm per year.

The Burao Water Agency has nearly collapsed 5 years ago and nearly filed bankruptcy due to salaries back pay, debt in terms of operation, lack of revenue collection and aging equipment was the result of the crisis. Above all, poor management performance was the result of the BWA poor performance.

The Minister of Mining, Energy and Water Resources, Eng. Hussein Dualeh pioneered the current development of the BWA. He has succeeded to turn around the ailing public water utility and make it more competitive & modern. In late 2010, minister Dualeh has appointed a qualified General Manager for the BWA who has developed the ailing public water utility into a more sustainable agency.

Service Delivery and Management Performance

There are 9 public boreholes that serve the city’s water supply network that the BWA is responsible for. The average drawdown is just 3 m according to BWA. The current water production is 4, 000 m3 /day. Forty percent of the residents have connections. There are about 50 privately owned boreholes that serve the city.

Previously, BWA used to spend the bulk of the revenue for electricity bills. Recently, they have bought new generators from Dubai, UAE, to cover their power usage. Currently, the BWA supplies and sells excess power that the new generators produce to the neighborhood.

Food and Agriculture Organization and Somali Water and Land Information Management (FAO-SWALIM) is assisting BWA in monitoring the ground water depletion through data sampler technology (diver). The data collected by the diver is further sent to Nairobi for analysis.

In short, BWA is a public water utility and less business oriented than that of SHABA, it has nevertheless, shown positive progress. It is evident that given the right level of support coupled with competent management, the public water utility model can also be successful in Somaliland.

Faisal Hashi

European Commission Water Consultant

Hargeisa, Somaliland