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How a fixed leak can make all the difference to Freetown’s residents

IMC Worldwide is working on behalf of the UK Department for International Development and the Guma Valley water company to rehabilitate the water supply system of Sierra Leone's capital Freetown.

Wednesday 30 May 2018, Andre Steele

Despite the significant amount of rain falling in Sierra Leone’s capital city Freetown during the rainy season, taps are often dry.

Upstream leakages, at the level of the city’s main water supply, the Guma dam, are a root cause. Moreover, because of leaks across the distribution network and the high pressures at which water is supplied to the west coast, by the time water reaches Freetown’s central areas, flow and quantity are lower, and then almost non-existent in the densely populated east of the city. This forces around 600,000 people to seek informal sources, which increases health hazards and the risk of disease.

‘Spaghetti’ of hose pipes are unofficial ways of increasing water distribution. Over half the water that enters the system is lost due to leakage from the deteriorated network and informal ‘spaghetti’ plastic pipes. These have grown exponentially over the past 20 years to keep up with the city’s booming population.
‘Spaghetti’ of hose pipes are unofficial ways of increasing water distribution. Over half the water that enters the system is lost due to leakage from the deteriorated network and these informal connections.

IMC Worldwide is working on behalf of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Guma Valley water company to rehabilitate the city’s water supply system.

The consortium we lead to deliver this UK Aid-funded project, which also includes Atkins and BAM Nuttall, aims to rehabilitate the water treatment works to reduce leakage and upgrade treatment facilities, improve pressure management in the network, install new water pipelines and two reservoirs as well as rehabilitate ten existing reservoirs, pipelines and an important pumping station.

The rehabilitation of a key pipeline in the eastern part of Freetown, which is particularly dry, will increase the reliability of water supply to its inhabitants.

First major achievement

On Saturday 19 May, we rehabilitated a key gate valve at the bottom of  Guma dam, working with HVL Solutions. The gate valve controls water flow to the dam scour valve.

Prior to that, an average of 1,800 m3/day was lost from the reservoir. The daily supply of water to Freetown is approximately 70,000 m3/day, which means the repairs have saved 2.5% of daily use.  

To ensure long-term maintenance, we are preparing a manual on how to operate the valves correctly, which will be followed by training of the operators at the water utility and repeat inspections of the repair works to confirm leakages have been resolved.

This intervention, which is the first in a long series, has not only increased the amount of water that is stored in the reservoir, which is particularly important during the long dry season. It has also achieved value for money for DFID since replacement, as originally envisaged, would have been more expensive.

The project is demonstration of British expertise delivering construction and infrastructure in support of some of the world’s most disadvantaged.

Cover photo: the Guma dam is the main water supply of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown. 

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