Chapter Three: Operation and Maintenance Objectives for Water Projects

From Ministry of Water DCOM Manual

1 Chapter Three: Operation and Maintenance Objectives for Water Projects

1.1 The Concept of Operation and Maintenance

The two core activities of “operation” and “maintenance” as applied to water projects are very different in nature. “Operation” refers to hourly and daily operations of the components of a system such as plant, machinery and equipment (valves etc.) as undertaken by an operator or his assistant. This is routine work. It encompasses direct access to the system by the user (e.g. operating the hand pump), to the activities of any technical operational staff as a routine function (e.g. operators of headworks, motorised pumps, treatment plant, machinery and equipment, conveying mains, service reservoirs and distribution system, etc.). Operation includes the planning and control of the extraction/collection, treatment, conveyance, and delivery of water, and/or the collection, treatment, and disposal of effluent. It also covers the management of clients and public relations, legal system, personnel, commercial, and accounting functions

“Maintenance”, on the other hand, is defined as the art/act of keeping the structures, plants, machinery and equipment and other facilities in an optimum working order (WHO, 2005;). Maintenance requires skills, tools and spare parts (Carter, 2009). Maintenance, may be Preventive, Corrective or Reactive:

Preventive maintenance - includes work that is planned and carried out on a regular basis to maintain and keep infrastructure in good condition, such as network inspection, flushing of the water wells and water lines, disinfection of water tanks, cleaning and greasing of mechanical parts and replacement of parts with a limited lifespan. Preventive maintenance not only extends the lifetime of WASH infrastructure but also saves costs in the long-term as it reduces the frequency of costly breakdowns and also reduces the frequency with which expensive reactive maintenance or emergency backup solutions are required (Harvey 2015). It sometimes also includes minor repairs and replacement of parts as dictated by the routine monitoring and inspections.

It is essential to schedule preventive maintenance to ensure the routine smooth operations and health of the system. This can be done by way of routine check-up inspections. The camp manager or the person in charge of the WASH services will need to ensure that the technician is doing his/her job well regularly and is always alert. The key to ensuring effective plant and equipment maintenance is to make certain that responsibilities are clearly defined and maintenance personnel have the tools and skills to do their job effectively.

Corrective maintenance - includes replacing or repairing parts or something that was done incorrectly or that needs to be changed; an example is the reallocation of a pipe route or replacement of a faulty pump.

Reactive maintenance – is a reaction to a crisis or public complaint; and normally occurs because of failure and or the malfunctioning or breakdown of equipment. Responsive maintenance should allow for a quick and efficient response to WASH-related problems that occur suddenly. This is best handled by mobile WASH teams that should be properly trained and equipped (with spare parts and tools) to immediately respond to infrastructure failure or breakdown and to handle emerging situations promptly (Harvey 2015, IOM, NRC and UNHCR 2015).

The project manager will need to ensure that the operator/technician is always alert and does his job well. If undertaken correctly and on a regular schedule, preventive measures can reduce the risk of costly repairs. The key to ensuring effective plant and equipment maintenance is to make certain that responsibilities are clearly defined and maintenance personnel have the tools and skills to do their job effectively. It is also essential to schedule preventive maintenance.

1.2 Objectives of Operation and Maintenance

The overall aim of O&M is to ensure efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of WASH facilities (Castro et al., 2009). The specific objective of an efficient operation and maintenance (O&M) in relation to a water supply and sanitation system is to provide safe drinking water and sanitation as per designed quality and quantity, with adequate pressure at convenient locations and time at competitive cost on a sustainable basis as well as sustainability of sanitation services. The O&M is a crucial element of sustainability and its lack is a frequent cause of failure of water supply and sanitation service facilities (DFID, 1998). If O&M of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services is not prioritised by the key actors, infrastructure may deteriorate quickly and the affected population may lose access to facilities that serve their basic needs (European Commission, 2014). Hygiene levels, too, are adversely affected by poor O&M (UNICEF Jordan 2016; IOM, NRC and UNHCR, 2016).

Advantages of O&M activities:

• To ensure that the project is sustainable in the long-term;

• To enable the correct provision of services and benefits to end-users;

• To prevent a water supply and sanitation projects from creating environmental and health hazards and from collapsing;

• To ensure that end-users are made directly responsible for the O&M of the installed facilities, hence promoting and enhancing community ownership of a water project.

Disadvantages of O&M activities:

• O&M costs time and money, and therefore a provision for financing O&M has to be planned before the project starts operating.

Why Maintenance?

Maintenance of facilities is essential in order to prevent failure of components and instead extending the useful life of the facilities and minimizing disruptions in services. Good maintenance involves the following:

(a) Quick repair/replacement of any failed component;

(b) Up-to-date training of maintenance personnel;

(c) Adequate inventory of parts and tools needed for repairs;

(d) Efficient mobilization practices in emergencies; and

(e) Valve exercising (single most important form of preventive maintenance for reliability of a service).

1.3 Operation and Maintenance Scenarios

It has been observed that the lack of attention to important aspects of Operation & Maintenance (O&M) of water supply and sanitation projects in several locations often leads to their being dysfunctional or in deterioration of the useful life of the systems necessitating premature replacement of many components, thus incurring huge losses to users or the government. As such even after creating such assets by investing millions of Tanzanian Shillings, the concerned experts and or technicians fail to provide proper services effectively to the community for which the facilities have been constructed but have become dysfunctional or are underutilized most of the time.

Some of the key issues contributing to poor O&M have been identified as follows:

(a) Lack of finance, equipment, material, and inadequate data on Operation & Maintenance,

(b) Poor system design; and inadequate workmanship,

(c) Multiplicity of agencies and, overlapping responsibilities,

(d) Inadequate numbers of operating staff,

(e) Illegal tapping of water,

(f) Inadequate training for concerned personnel,

(g) Low attraction of maintenance jobs in career planning,

(h) Lack of staff performance evaluation and regular monitoring,

(i) Inadequate emphasis on preventive maintenance,

(j) Lack of O&M manual,

(k) Lack of real time field information.

Therefore, there is a need for clear–cut sector policies and legal framework and clear demarcation of responsibilities and mandates for O&M for all water supply schemes or sanitation projects.

1.4 How to Improve Operation and Maintenance

Efficient and effective operation depends on sound water supply and sanitation strategies which comprise:

• Water and sanitation safety plans to ensure good quality of water, hygienic and safe wastewater disposal and waste reuse practices,

• Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) including who does what and when, and to identify associated annual expenses and revenues; and

• Service improvement plans to set out future investments to ensure improved and sustainable service delivery.

1.4.1 Water Safety and Safely Managed Sanitation Plans

Water Safety Plan (WSP) serve to shift the focus from end-of-pipe testing to improved operational management, with water quality testing used to verify outcomes. They provide a means of prioritizing improvement programme based on health outcomes. Most importantly, water and sanitation safety plans bear in mind and address bacteriological contamination which is the biggest water quality related threat to public health, especially infant mortality.

The main objectives of a water safety plan include protecting human health and ensuring good water supply practices which minimize contamination of water sources , the reduction or removal of contamination through appropriate treatment processes and the prevention of contamination in the overall distribution network as well as the domestic distribution system. These objectives are applicable to all water supply chains, irrespective of their size or complexity and are achieved through:

(a) Enhanced understanding of each specific system and its capability to supply water that meets health-based targets;

(b) Identification of potential sources of contamination and how they can be controlled;

(c) Validation of control measures employed to mitigate potential hazards;

(d) Instituting a system for monitoring control measures within the water system;

(e) Taking timely corrective actions to ensure that safe water is consistently supplied; and

(f) Undertaking verification of drinking-water quality to ensure that the WSP always runs correctly and achieves the performance level and meets the required and relevant national, regional and local water quality standards and objectives.

The WSPs are an effective way of ensuring that water supply is safe for human consumption and that it meets health based standards and other safety regulatory requirements. WSP is based on a comprehensive risk assessment and risk management approach in all the steps in a typical water supply chain from catchment to consumer (Source:

A water safety plan may involve surveying the water supply system from source to storage / treatment to distribution to households (also known as sanitary survey) so as to identify actual and potential sources /causes of contamination and corresponding operational control measures to reduce possible risks. The controls have to be monitored to check and ensure that all the components of the projects are in smooth working order; otherwise remedial actions must be taken accordingly. The URT (2015a, b) provides guidelines for the preparation of water safety plans - resilient to climate change for urban water supply utilities and rural water supply services in order to proactively identify the longer-term risks involving water supply systems such as increasing water scarcity or pollution amongst others. The same approach can be applied to sanitation systems/facilities. Safely managed sanitation calls for ensured safety of the workers involved and all the pertaining sanitation components through the whole service delivery/value chain.

1.4.2 Standard Operating Procedures

A standard O&M function involves: (a) Operating staff, (b) Supervisory staff.

While the former actually run the system, the latter engage in monitoring the operations and providing managerial support.

It is difficult to propose a rigid organisational structure model for use in all places. It is possible to vary the staffing from place to place based on site-specific requirements, availability of suitable manpower and existing working practices.

Standard Operating Procedures are essential for identifying what local operators should do in terms of routine O&M related to water sources, conveying, pumping, storage and water/sewage treatment units, distribution systems and sanitation systems including household water/sewer connections as well as relevant management practices. Annual budgetary operation expenses and incomes levels and annual surplus/deficit should always be recorded and the data maintained. A member of staff with good experience and required skills would be needed to train operators and assist them whenever problems arise. In-house training may be carried out to staff in the fields of pump mechanic, pump operators, welding, plant operator, plumbing, masonry, and carpenter depending on the type of facility involved and in operation.

Often the tasks required can overwhelm a local operator or overseer who may have only basic skills and limited experience, but by providing basic orientation in terms of hands-on training the same can build confidence to do the job well.

When the plan or programme containing pertinent procedures is prepared for each piece of equipment, the person to oversee this action is to be identified. This person’s job description should contain reference to the maintenance plan/programme. The job descriptions for all operating personnel shall clearly define the limits up to which the staff can carry out normal maintenance. The job description of the Supervisor/Manager shall include the requirement to ensure that the operating personnel conform to the defined limits and thus ensure the safety of all equipment. The personnel who are already available or chosen to carry out the actions defined in the programme may have to be trained as indicated in Section 4.2.2. On the job training is always preferred to class room training.

A job description shall be prepared for each operator, and shall contain detailed instructions as to how he/she should carry out the actions required of him/her in the operation and maintenance plan. The training shall evolve a personnel management policy, which will ultimately provide for job training followed by performance evaluations and promotions. The supervisors shall be trained to train the operators. Every operator who is assigned a job in the operation and maintenance plan/programme shall be given appropriate (on the job) training on how to perform the actions assigned to him/her. Encouragement can be offered by way of incentives to those who have improved their performance after successful training.

1.4.3 Service Improvement Plans

It is important to define management and service delivery improvement modalities and actions for improved accounts, billing and revenue collection for both water supply and sanitation services.

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