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Interview: leakage detection chief at EWA Bahrain discusses performance based contracts in non revenue water projects

In a keynote interview ahead of the Global Leakage Summit 2018 taking place in London next month, Hana Al Maskati Head of Leakage Detection and Control Group at Electricity and Water Authority (EWA) Bahrain discusses the use of performance based contracts for Non Revenue Water projects.

Hana – You are presenting a case study on a performance based contract (PBC) for NRW – what are the most important lessons learned? And what advice would you offer to water utilities in other water scarce MENA countries who are considering going down the PBC route?

At the end of the project, I came to know it is important that contract period should be reasonable not too short where you cannot complete the work. It would have been better to have more time for the audit, such as 1 full year followed by 2 to 3 full years for the implementation phase.

A longer audit period would have allowed a better definition of the baseline for the project and the establishment of a more accurate initial water balance. A longer implementation period would have allowed the Contractor to achieve more in terms of optimization of the network and NRW reduction.

I highly recommend the water scarce MENA countries to go for PBC with a well-known private sector with extensive experience in the design and implementation of multi-disciplinary water supply projects and an NRW specialist company with experienced engineers on both the technical and on the commercial loss components of NRW, skilled field staff and equipment, thus will help them in sustainably reducing NRW in a faster manner, improving revenues and breaking the spiral of decline that years of poor NRW management creates.

A PBC will be working around some public sector constraints and paying for results. Utilities in MENA going for PBC have to make sure that utility staff are working alongside with the contractor from the start of the contract for knowledge transfer theoretically and practically – and keeping in mind the security of all statistic information within MENA.

As Head of Leak Detection Department, and with the PBC now in place, what do you see as the biggest change – either by the introduction of a new methodology or by reviewing the utility’s operating practice – that will help you reduce NRW in future?

From the knowledge that field staff have gained, methods and techniques they used while working with contractors in one governorate they are more confident in carrying out leakage detection exercises, establishment of District Meter Areas (DMAs) and the procedure used in analysing all elements of NRW. They know where to concentrate and focus their effort to tackle physical loss or commercial loss. They can apply their experience in the other balance governorates and using KPIs to monitor NRW.

One of the Summit’s themes is increasing efficiency – and how customers can play their part in reducing demand to support future resilience and sustainability. This must be of particular relevance to a water scarce country like Bahrain – what would be your advice to encourage customers to use less (or waste less) water?

While the Bahrain Government is continuing its effort in providing potable water to all its residents, my advice is to enhance customer awareness about the water situation and encourage them to adopt these basic steps:

  • Turn off the water tap while tooth brushing, shaving and face washing.
  • Run washing machines and dishwashers only when they are full.
  • Use water-efficient appliances
  • Avoid wasting water and turning off faucets tightly after each use.
  • Repair and fix any water leaks immediately

In addition customers can refer to the Water Conservation Department in EWA to supply them free water-efficient appliances and to see the latest techniques that can be followed to help in reducing waste of water.

I believe that this is your first visit to a Global Leakage Summit – looking at the agenda, what are the ‘nuggets’ of information or best practices that you hope to take away at the end of the Summit?

To get feedback on how many countries where government/utilities are heading for water conservation, shortage of water systems to customers, how many similar countries to Bahrain suffering from scarcity of water are willing to go to private sectors/ or depending on their utilities to solve water scarcity.

Also to get a handle on updated experience in the field of water demand management efficiency and sustainability and the latest technology and techniques in the field of smart metering, leakage detection and NRW.

There is a global shortage of women engineers – particularly in the field of NRW management and leak detection. From your experience, what is holding them back, and what changes would encourage more women to get involved in this field?

I suppose it is fair to say that from earliest times water engineering could be classified as heavy engineering dating back to the Minoan civilization that developed an aqueduct system using tubular conduits.

However, in modern times, I would argue that water engineering requires less brawn and more brains. Without getting into a gender debate, women are, in many instances, better than men when it comes to resource management, but in many occasions women are put off because the water industry is still perceived as a male preserve. Added to this is that in many countries, there is a pay difference between males and females in industry.

Luckily, in Bahrain, we are gender neutral when it comes to pay. An individual is paid according

to their grade, not according to their gender. Therefore, we have a large number of women engineers and technicians within the Electricity and Water Authority across all disciplines. But when it comes to NRW, this field is not fully known in our country and it is not a taught course at university where you get a BSc degree.

It is an analytical procedure, not directly dealing with customers. It is a field that deals with:

  • Site procedure/ work to be done to ensure that information required for NRW are correct
  • a lot of calculation/ office work
  • cannot be a private business
  • people do not see/ does not make you famous

Therefore, utilities and organisations need to promote the industry as gender neutral and adopt a pay policy according to the position only. More incentives, training courses and staff awareness are needed to attract women engineers to this field.

Click here for more information about the Global Leakage Summit

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