Blue Deal Wastewater training in Ethiopia

In March, the Blue Deal Wastewater team visited Hawassa, Ethiopia, to provide 2 different trainings for our partners - the water utilities of Hawassa, Shashemene and Adama. It was an energetic week in which a lot has been discussed and a lot has been learned. From each utility, around 8 to 10 people were present. They were divided over the trainings according to their profession.

Asset Management and Shit Flow Diagram

The staff working on data and information management dived into 2 topics: Asset Management and Shit Flow Diagram. Richard Oudhuis, Maarten Strasters and Thijs van Osch provided a training focussed on how to work with software related to these topics.

To create a Shit Flow Diagram, using the SuSanA tool, creates insights on wastewater streams. Unsafe discharge can be better seen, and it is a handy tool to see how the wastewater streams flow. This then shows where the main areas of attention and improvement regarding unsafe wastewater discharge are.

For asset management, it was stressed how important it is to know your assets – because when you know what you have, you know what to work on! Using the M-water tool, it becomes easier to build an asset register, and keeping it up to date. On the last day of the training, the trainees went out to bring theory into practice and actually map some of their assets.

The overarching topic of improving data and information management is an important aspect of the Blue Deal Wastewater in Ethiopia, which comes back in multiple aspects. Following up on previous trainings, one trainee elaborated: “It is great to have a training on this topic from time to time, so I can ask questions which pop-up during work.” Having a long-term partnership like the Blue Deal, really shows it benefits.

Operating Vacuum Trucks

For the vacuum truck operators, Volkert van der Keelen and Deler Abdulkarim shared their knowledge on the use of these trucks. There were many questions among the operators and drivers which could be discussed. It once again became clear that the Ethiopian colleagues are operating in a difficult context, in which they try their best to keep the streets clean of wastewater.

The utilities obtained the trucks they were using from a donor. However, they had never been trained properly. They were only instructed by going through the manual together with the trainers in a room. What made this training different is that it was an on-the-job training, where they could ask questions and try out things on the truck. The training focussed on the importance of:

  • Properly preparing the truck for operation
  • Safety while operating, for yourself, others, and the environment
  • Safely discharging the full tanks
  • Cleaning and maintenance of the trucks

One of the trainees said: “The training was really interactive and based on our needs. Besides, we not only learned from the trainers but also from each other and the other utilities.”

One noteworthy addition was having Yoseph Cherinet around. He translated the training on truck operation, and assisted in facilitating. This made the training even more effective.

Now, it is up to the utilities to incorporate the knowledge learned during the training!

Blue Deal Regional Meeting Africa

From 7 to 10 July, a Regional Meeting will take place in Kenya, gathering Blue Deal partnerships from 7 countries. This event serves as a follow-up to the Blue Deal Congress held in Amsterdam in June 2023.

A workshop during the Blue Deal Congress, where the idea for the regional meeting originated

Topics in Amsterdam were, among others, water pricing and nature-based solutions. During the meetings in this congress week, mutual exchange proved promising on a number of water themes. One thing in particular was shared among the participants: to further deepen these initial contacts, and to share and learn from each other’s experiences. The result is the Blue Deal Regional Meeting in Kenya.

Countries and themes

Kenya, Ghana, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Eswatini have indicated that they will participate in July 2024 in this Regional Blue Deal Meeting. Blue Deal Kenya is gracious enough to host the event in Mombasa. The following 3 issues will be part of the exchange:

  1. Water pricing
  2. Funding for water projects
  3. Funding and governance for nature-based solutions

Advantages of exchange

The partnerships participating in the event foresee many advantages of the exchange:

  • Facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practices at the international level;
  • Discuss challenges of water management through intervision;
  • Explore the advantages of international cooperation;
  • Deepen and share insights on elevating the importance of water on the political agenda;
  • Strengthen the consortia of Blue Deal/Waterworx (a similar programme to the Blue Deal, initiated by the Dutch drinking water companies) and National Entities.

The regional meeting in Africa can also provide valuable input for the broader Blue Deal programme’s learning activities, such as the Communities of Practice.

Blue Deal continues its work in conflict areas

Through the Blue Deal, Dutch Water Authorities works in 15 countries worldwide. Even in countries where intense conflicts sometimes arise. Like now in the Palestinian Territories, Mali, Ethiopia, and Burkina Faso. How and why does the Blue Deal continue to operate there? Water expert Frank Tibben says: "We continue to collaborate to improve access to sufficient, clean, and safe water. In good times and in bad."

5 people overlook the West Bank from a distance

“Can I travel safely to and from my home? Will I still see my family again after this training?” These are questions Duaa Matar asks herself before deciding to travel to the Netherlands for training at the end of November 2023. Matar is a Palestinian woman working as a Young Expert Professional (Yepper) for the Blue Deal. She lives and works in the West Bank, in the Palestinian Territories.

The interview takes place in a coffee shop in The Hague, the day before she heads back home. A surreal experience as she talks about the war situation in her country. “It’s like I stood outside of reality for 2 weeks. I felt guilty for not being in my homeland. Physically I was here, but mentally I was at home.”

Political situation has changed

The Blue Deal is the international programme of the 21 Dutch water authorities, the Dutch ministries of Foreign Affairs and Infrastructure and Water Management, and water managers worldwide. The goal: to improve access to clean, sufficient, and safe water for 20 million people worldwide. That’s why the Blue Deal has formed 17 partnerships with water managers in 15 countries.

“In some of these countries, the political situation looked different when we started with the Blue Deal,” explains Frank Tibben. He is responsible for collective intelligence and strategic relationships at World Waternet, which works for the Blue Deal on behalf of the Dutch water authority Amstel, Gooi en Vecht. Some of the areas they work for in the Blue Deal, include conflict regions. Tibben also serves as the partnership manager for the Blue Deal in the Palestinian Territories.

Good and bad times

He continues: “We don’t construct infrastructure ourselves; we’re not an engineering firm or contractor. We support local water managers in carrying out their tasks. We do this through knowledge exchange in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. Dutch and local colleagues work in a hybrid manner, with short visits to the country or to the Netherlands as needed. This makes us flexible and allows us to continue, even when conflict arises. The work then often becomes more digital.”

“Within the Blue Deal, we form partnerships until 2030. A lot can happen in such a long period, positively or negatively. We continue to collaborate to improve access to sufficient, clean, and safe water. In good times and in bad,” says Tibben.

Long-term commitment

“Of course, sometimes I wonder: couldn’t we achieve much more in other, safer areas?” says Luzette Kroon. She is board member of the Association of Dutch Water Authorities and is responsible for the international portfolio and chair of the Blue Deal. “But that also means throwing away what we’ve built and abandoning our principles. We operate on the principle of long-term commitment. It’s precisely because of that long-term commitment that we can achieve things. That’s what makes us powerful.”


How does the work of the Blue Deal continue in conflict regions? Matar talks about a pilot in Salfit, a city in the West Bank. “A smart system has been created here for monitoring water levels. We can remotely read and adjust the water level. This means the engineer in this area no longer needs to visit the location. It is a relief, because it is currently an unsafe region near Israeli settlements.” The pilot started 3 months before the outbreak of renewed violence.

Another example is the pilot with 3 BluElephants in the cities of Salfit and Halhul in the West Bank. These are mobile, decentralised purification plants that purify wastewater for reuse. Now that Palestinian colleagues in the West Bank can no longer safely travel to and from work, these installations ensure that wastewater continues to be purified.

A pilot with 3 BluElephants ensures that wastewater continues to be purified.

Working in neighbouring countries

In other conflict-affected countries, the Blue Deal also seeks creative solutions. Much of this involves thinking along and providing advice. From a distance. Tibben says: “It helps if the Dutch colleagues have already visited the locations and partners. Last year, for example, we were involved in Ethiopia in the construction of a wetland, a natural water buffer for wastewater treatment. This makes it easier for us in the Netherlands to provide digital support for the monitoring of the wetland and the construction of new wetlands.”

Other options are that Dutch and local colleagues meet in a safe neighbouring country. Or that local colleagues come to the Netherlands.

Continuous support

The Blue Deal team in the Netherlands and the team in the West Bank speak weekly. Digitally, which works well thanks to the experiences from the COVID-19 period. Matar says: “Our colleagues from the Netherlands provide us with continuous support. Every week, we assess what is realistic. We even made plans for 2024, although we don’t know exactly how the situation will develop.” Tibben adds: “Especially in difficult times, the long-term Blue Deal partnership focuses on sustainable water management.”

Kroon says: “In conflict areas, water management is so necessary. We work on solutions that fit the local context, focusing on local people. With the Blue Deal, we contribute to a bit of stability. The fact that our partner water authorities are still functioning indicates that our work is meaningful. As long as we achieve sustainable impact, we continue our work.”

This article originally appeared in magazine ‘Het Waterschap’. Read the original article in Dutch.

Naturally improving waste water processing in Adama, Ethiopia

The city of Adama, like many other cities in Ethiopia, suffers from poor sanitation in the 'condominiums'. The Blue Deal partnership in the area is contributes to a Nature-Based Solution: constructed wetlands. So far, the partnership has created 2 wetlands in Shashemene and is now working on a new wetland in Adama. Read all about the project and watch a movie in which residents speak about what the wetlands mean to them.

The condominiums are construction projects with which the government is trying to accommodate the increasing group of people moving to the cities. These condominiums are not connected to the sewer network; the waste water is collected in septic tanks that are buried around the houses. These tanks must be emptied regularly by suction trucks so that they do not overflow.

However, the condominiums are often inhabited by Ethiopians who do not have much money. They often cannot afford the costs of having their septic tanks emptied. In practice, this causes the tanks to regularly overflow. Sewage flows between the houses – where children play – and leaks into nature and nearby lakes. The residents suffer from odours, health problems and see their environment deteriorate.

Plants and stones purify the waste water

There is a great need for a solution to this problem. Connecting these condominiums to the sewer network is a long-term process, and in the meantime, residents and the surrounding area have daily concerns due to the overflowing tanks. The Blue Deal partnership for Waste water in the cities of Shashemene, Adama and Hawassa, together with the NWB fund, contributes to a Nature Based Solution: constructed wetlands. Within such a constructed wetland, a septic tank is still used to collect ‘solid waste’, but the rest of the waste water flows through to a container in which a combination of specific local plants, stones and gravel is used to purify the waste water.

Watering crops or flushing toilets

After purification, this water cannot be drunk, but it does have other uses. The Blue Deal partnership helps monitor water quality so that it becomes clear what the water can be used for. This includes watering crops (at the root) or flushing toilets.

This way of collecting and purifying water ensures that the polluted water does not end up in nature. Another benefit is that wetlands are micro-ecosystems that increase biodiversity. They attract insects and birds, and also provide a cooler and greener environment in the middle of the hot city.

The benefits are diverse

In April, the team that will be working in Adama went to look at these wetlands. We spoke to residents of the condominiums in question about their experiences with the wetlands: what went well and what can be improved during the construction of the wetland in Adama? Both the residents of the condominiums and the municipality were very pleased with the effects of the constructed wetlands. These are:

  • Financial: The costs of emptying the septic tank in the past were high. After creating the wetlands, the tanks need to be emptied much less often. In addition, one of the plant species in the wetland (napier grass) can be harvested by residents to sell as animal feed.
  • Social: The problems of the overflowing septic tanks (odors, diseases) affected not only the residents of the condominiums themselves, but also those living in the lower areas where the dirty water flowed. Conflicts regularly arose about this. Since the wetlands were created, this no longer occurs.
  • Physical: Children used to play in the sewage from the overflowing tanks, which of course posed health risks. One of the interviewees says: “When I got my child, I knew I needed to leave this unhealthy place. Now, with the constructed wetland, I really don’t want to leave anymore.” A woman with asthma who had to leave her home because the bad air aggravated her illness was also able to return.
  • Environment: The wetlands not only make the environment cleaner, but also more beautiful and cooler. This is also contributed to by the fact that the money from the napier grass can be invested in improving the living environment: One of the interviewees says: “When I look out my window, I see beautiful flowers, which makes me so happy.”

Creating more wetlands

All these advantages ensure that the municipality, the water company and the residents of various condominiums in Adama are also very keen to get started with their own wetlands. With the support of the Blue Deal and the NWB fund, we are now working hard to realize this.

Blue Deal Ethiopia presents case at World Water Week

During the World Water Week in Stockholm on August 22, Blue Deal Young Expert, Joy Pengel, presented a case on the Water Agreement and water allocation planning in the Awash basin in Ethiopia. She did this together with an expert from cooperation partner Woord en Daad.

The pressure on the water system in the Awash basin is very high. Various governments at federal level (Ministry of Water) and regional level (including Regional Water Bureaus from 3 autonomous regions) must arrive at a joint (catchment) approach. Cooperation in Ethiopia does not come about by itself. This movie explains this well.

Fair distribution of the available water

In various projects, the Blue Deal stimulates multi-level cooperation to achieve a better river basin approach. For example, the Blue Deal has supported the formulation of a Water Agreement between these parties. Together with one of our partners, Woord en Daad, we are helping these parties to implement the Water Agreement. The Water Agreement provides a framework for structural cooperation, coordination and harmonization of upstream and downstream interests.

One of the main goals of the Water Agreement is to promote a fair distribution of scarce water (equitable water allocation planning). Together with other partners, we are introducing a taxation system for water use, registration and licensing of water use, setting up irrigation water user associations, and rolling out a measuring network to monitor water availability. Every year we try to improve one or more parts of the water allocation planning process, for example through evaluations via an explanatory infographic.

Water quality and water allocation

During the presentation, the emphasis was placed on 2 specific topics of the Water Agreement: Waste water treatment/water quality and water allocation. Mainly around water allocation, we explained about the use of an infographic to start discussions and to ensure that everyone is talking about the same thing. The question that remained with the audience at the end of the presentation was how Water Pricing is addressed within this project. On this subject, we also mentioned how registration and payment of water are topics we are working on. There was also attention for the implementation of a Water Allocation Priority Ladder to indicate where the water should go during periods of scarcity.

Watch the session online

Would you like to hear more about our experiences? The title of the session was ‘Water Pricing: valuing and allocating water in the Awash basin in Ethiopia’. If you pre-registered online for World Water Week, you can replay the session here.

Lecture: solutions for complex water problems

The KIWI learning programme recently organised a lecture by professor Guy Alaerts about the unruly nature of international water management and solutions for complex water problems.

Water managers worldwide are looking for integrated solutions for complex water problems. Major investments are often required to become climate proof, but finding financing is difficult. Water managers and financial institutions do not know where to find each other and converting globally available financing into concrete projects on a large scale is difficult. Watch the lecture below. The lecture is in Dutch, but can be viewed with subtitles.

Study: water management knowledge exchange

TU Delft and Erasmus University, in collaboration with Dutch Water Authorities, have launched a study into water management knowledge exchange. The universities are investigating which lessons the Dutch regional water authorities take abroad.

Meeting room with people seated at tables for a traning session. One man is stood, giving a presentation.
Dutch Water Authorities and local partners attending a training session.

As part of the study into water management knowledge exchange university researchers are looking at the lessons learned at an individual level, group level and organisational level. The aim is to find out exactly what effect these lessons have on organisations.


A questionnaire is sent out via the Dutch Water Authorities foreign coordinators. It is hoped that insight can be gained into the possibilities and limiting factors of international knowledge sharing.

More on Dutch Water Authorities and knowledge exchange

Blue Deal Annual plan 2021

The 2021 annual plan of the Blue Deal programme has been approved by the steering committee. The partnerships will continue their work in 2021 to improve water management in 14 countries.

Two men inspecting a waste water treatment plant.

The focus of the Blue Deal Annual plan 2021 is on three crucial elements: sufficient knowledge and skills, a well-functioning organisation and collaboration with key stakeholders.

Online learning

As COVID-19 continues into 2021, the Blue Deal partnerships focus on online learning and training in the first six months. This is not easy in all countries, for example due to slow internet connections or recently initiated partnerships. Therefore, the partnerships also focus on additional local representation. Dutch Water Authorities hopes to physically meet its partners again in the second half of 2021.

More on the Blue Deal