Sierra Leone: improving access to safe water in Freetown


The Freetown water supply is in a critical situation. It relies principally on a single source, the Guma Dam, with over 90% of the total water supply to Freetown supplied from the Guma Dam and the Guma Water Treatment Plant. 

The Guma Dam was built in the early 1960s and is sized to provide water reliably to around 800,000 people. The current population of Freetown is significantly higher than this, estimated to be approaching 2 million.

Inadequate water from municipal systems forces the population to seek informal sources, seriously increasing the hazards to health and the risk of disease.

The Guma Reservoir is vulnerable to climate effects. Generally it fills annually during the rainy season, and gradually drains during the dry season. Over abstraction, or a year with low rainfall, creates a risk of emptying the reservoir and leaving Freetown without any supply – as occurred in 2006, with dire consequences.

The eastern end of Freetown, home to a large percentage of the city’s citizens, is particularly poorly supplied with water. High consumption and leakage in the western area uses a high proportion of the water before it reaches the city centre, let alone the east.


The main objective of the Freetown Water Supply Rehabilitation project is to improve the living situation for the citizens of Freetown, through rehabilitation of the water infrastructure for improved public service delivery of water.

The expected impact of the programme will be to reduce morbidity and mortality rates associated with incidences of diarrhoea, malaria and other water-borne and vector-linked diseases. The expected outcome will be increased sustainable access to safe water in Freetown.


The Freetown Water Supply Rehabilitation project is an initiative of the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL), specifically the Ministry of Water Resources and the Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC).

The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) is the contracting authority, following a pledge made by the UK at the UN’s International Ebola Recovery Conference in New York in July 2015 of £130m towards making adequate basic services available to all, particularly health, education and water.

The beneficiaries are the citizens of Sierra Leone, particularly those of Freetown.


GVWC are the body responsible for the collection, treatment and distribution of water across Freetown.

IMC Worldwide has been awarded the DFID-funded Engineering Management Services Project for the Rehabilitation of Freetown Water Supply. We will provide a complete service from feasibility and design to construction and handover. Due to the wide range of expertise required, IMC assembled a strong consortium including BAM JV (BAM/Nuttall UK and BAM International) and WS Atkins International Limited (Atkins).

National contractors will be employed, where appropriate, in order to improve the sustainability of the programme.

GVWC and IMC have established a joint office in Freetown, and work closely together to oversee the project.


The project commenced in May 2017 and will last for a maximum of 28 months.  Construction will take place predominantly during the dry season, between November and June. A preliminary feasibility study has been prepared. The construction works should be substantially completed by August 2018 and handed over to GVWC by August 2019.

Project Name

Freetown Water Supply Rehabilitation Project

project status



UK Department for International Development (DFID)

Focus areas
last updated

April 16, 2019