Water Journal : Water Journal November 2012-1
feature article 44 NOVEMBER 2012 water feature articles Dogs, chickens and villagers scuttle to the side of the pot- holed road as the Guard Dog Security Services express zooms through the dusk on the 40km ride from Nadzab Airport to Lae. The cage of passengers, a few startled newcomers like me, and the rest totally laid back and relaxed, are a mottled group of business people and locals sitting in this Rambo-style bus. The engineer in me is doing the sums on the risk of a crash from the crazy driving versus the extra protection we get from having two armed security guards of easy-looking disposition and a 22-seater Toyota bus wrapped in steel mesh – except for the bi-fold entry door which I guess was too hard to mesh up. Welcome to Lae on the north coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Water PNG services the 16 major cities and towns in regional PNG, with Lae being the largest by far. The Hunter Water Group comprises Hunter Water Corporation, the regulated utility servicing the water and wastewater needs of the lower Hunter region and its commercial subsidiary, Hunter Water Australia Pty Ltd. In 2011, Water PNG and the Hunter Water Group signed a Twinning Agreement sponsored by the Asian Development Bank, which pays travel and per diem expenses for approved visits between the two entities. Water PNG and its staff gain our expertise and insights into their water and wastewater problems, while we gain some unique perceptions of the lives and times of our fabulous northern neighbours. The twinning arrangement has been underway for about two years now, the agenda having been set by the former CEO of Water PNG, Patrick Amini, and his senior managers. We are tackling their four priorities: reducing non-revenue water; improving operations and asset management; developing better water quality management; and introducing long-term master planning. Rather than cover all 16 towns, Patrick suggested we focus on Lae, PNG’s second largest city, as a case example. His wisdom has been proven as the diversity and size of challenges we are undertaking is far and above most other twinning arrangements. Change, Challenges and Ingenious Solutions Lae is colloquially referred to as ‘pot-hole city’ in Papua New Guinea and is great if you want to choose a case study site with all the social and infrastructure problems of a yet-to-be- developed city with enormous potential. Lae has a population of somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000, depending on when, how and who is counted. There are reasonable urban services for about 150,000. There is a large population that lives in the peri-urban area outside the perimeter of the main city and that have limited or no services. Many are young and travelled to Lae from Highland villages to share in the comforts and excitement of city living, only to be confronted after a while by a very different reality. Serious riots have occurred over the past few years; you don’t walk the streets at night and you need to be wary at the footy (rugby league), as rocks are sometimes thrown at the opposition team and spectators. Improving non-revenue water was the first priority for the twinning project. Dean Taylor from our team worked with Lae staff on a spreadsheet model that led to the ‘first-run’ estimate of 45 per cent non-revenue water (water produced generating no revenue). Then they developed a program of improvements to follow. Non-revenue water is now down to 35 per cent and headed to 30 per cent. But for all of our ideas on improvements, we were well outclassed by the ingenuity of Water PNG’s local manager. The biggest water debt was owed by the local police; organising the press and TV to attend a public ceremony involving shutting off the water supply to the police headquarters in central Lae was all that was needed to encourage quick and full payment! Water quality management has improved with the help of our Laboratories Manager, Andrea Swan, master planning has started, and Alan Thornton, with his 40 years of operations experience, continues to work on improving the operation of the Lae water supply system. Organisations experience change and challenges, and Water PNG has had more than its share over the past two years. The CEO retired and we are fortunate that Raka Taviri, who originally started the twinning effort with Patrick, has been promoted. Tales of Puk Puk and Walkabout Spanners Twinning Partnerships provide fascinating insights into very different cultures, as well as sharing essential expertise, writes Jim Keary, General Manager of Hunter Water Australia, who heads up the Hunter Water team partnering with Water PNG. It seems there was plenty to laugh about at the Lae WWTP. The team gets together to sort out operational problems.
Water Journal December 2012
Water Journal September 2012-1