How technology is plugging the leaks in water-stressed East African capitals

Several regions of the world are experiencing what environmental research organization World Resources Institute refers to as "extremely high" water stress, meaning they use more than 80% of their available supplies to grow food, supply the needs of industry and provide drinking water to their cities and communities. The adjoining East African countries of Burundi and Rwanda don't yet appear on lists of regions with the world's most severe water scarcity, but both are trying to deal with critical water shortages. And water utilities in both countries are turning to technology from Council Global Lead Partner Itron to help them stop preventable water losses in their capital cities — and conserve as much water as they can. — Doug Peeples


Kigali, Rwanda's capital city of Rwanda, is experiencing a severe water shortage and its water reserves are well below mandated targets. Other cities in the country are experiencing the same, as are cities in neighboring Burundi.

And preventable water losses are exacerbating the problem — leaks in water lines to be precise — as are outdated management technologies.

WASAC, Rwanda's country-wide water utility, has been working with Itron for the past 10 years to update its water metering system. The follow-up project not underway entails installation of specialized Itron water meters in Kigali that are capable of providing accurate flow measurements, even in severe environmental conditions such as extreme humidity.

In Burundi, water utility REGIDESO and Itron are working on a broader approach that incorporates residential, commercial and industrial water meters and software-as-a-service to provide analytics and meter data management to reduce water losses in Bujumbura, the capital city.

Water losses are significant in the Burundi capital, and the new automated water metering technology will enable the utility to monitor its distribution network's performance and collect the data it needs to pinpoint leaks. It also will help the utility bring in more revenue.

"Water is a precious resource in Burundi as we face challenges with water shortages and access to clean drinking water. With the help of Itron's technology, we can ensure that treated water is not lost during delivery. This is a critical step in improving water access in Bujumbura," explained Laurent Mbonihankuy, assistant energy minister.

"This project will improve the efficiency of the drinking water supply while reducing progressively water losses and shortening the period of water shortages."

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.