Keeping the taps running in Ouagadougou

Keeping the taps running in Ouagadougou

The Ouagadougou Water Supply Project has succeeded in delivering a steady water supply to a rapidly growing urban population and helped a water management authority struggling to cope with demand to become among Africa’s highest performing public utilities.

A decade ago, clean drinking water in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital city, was running out. The city’s population had doubled to almost one million inhabitants between 1985 and 2000 and is still rising now.

Even before the rapid rises in population, water delivery was sporadic and only 30 percent of the population was connected to the water supply system. Although the government realised the need to act, the National Water and Sanitation Utility (ONEA) did not have the resources to quench the growing demand for water in Ouagadougou.

As part of its “Water for Life” initiative, the European Union helped to provide funding and technical assistance for the Ouagadougou Water Supply Project, an integrated investment programme which also involved major international partners including the World Bank.

The project looked at:

  • Developing new water storage capacity;
  • Extending water distribution networks and connections to low-income households;
  • Strengthening ONEA’s capacity by introducing an international water operator to manage commercial, financial and accounting operations.


The project lasted from 2001-2007 with a total cost of €160 million, €30 million of which came from European Commission funds. The main achievements were:

  • The number of city residents with household connections to piped water more than tripled in six years, from 300,000 in 2001 to 1,040,000 people in 2007. Ninety-four percent of the city’s population – 1,480,000 people – now has access to safe water;
  • The supply is now very dependable 24/7;
  • Water sector management has improved significantly. ONEA’s accounting is in order, the bill collection ratio has increased from 86% in 2001 to 95.4% in 2007; and unaccounted-for-water (UFW) was stabilised at 18%;
  • The financial equilibrium of the urban water sector has been restored. The cash flow of the sector doubled from CFAF3 billion (US$6 million) in 2001 to CFAF6 billion in 2006 ($12 million);
  • Staff productivity and customer satisfaction have increased considerably;
  • The ratio of access to safe drinking water in urban towns of Burkina Faso has increased from 57% in 1994 to 74% in 2007 – a major step towards achieving the MDGs target of 80% in 2015.