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South Western Umbrella of Water and Sanitation


The South Western Towns Water and Sanitation Project (swTws) funded by the Austrian  development Cooperation was designed to cover 19 small towns and rural growth centres (800 to 12,000 inhabitants) in the South-west of Uganda.
The project started in 1996 with a very ambitious goal to decentralize operation and maintenance to the user’s level. Meanwhile it covers 47 schemes.
Decentralization needs a certain competence and capacity to solve problems related to O&M of water supply and sanitation schemes.
In order to support these small schemes of rural growth centres with required competence several owners - Water Supply and Sanitation Boards (WSSB)/Water and Sanitation Committees (WSSC) -formed a bigger entity, the South Western Umbrella of Water and Sanitation (swUws).

Rationale for forming an umbrella organization

  • The formation swUws can be described as a process of "bottom up recentralisation" to:
  • provide specialized competence and services at a regional level
  • take benefit from economy of scale factors
  • have a strong and independent voice in the interest of water users (civil society)

swUws at a glance (2008)

47 member Water and Sanitation Boards/Committees serving a population of 120,000 people. The membership is voluntary.

swUws is financed by:

  • government
  • membership fees
  • development partners (initial start-up phase)

Estimated annual budget: 90,000 US$


Employees: Manager, accountant, secretary, additional specific know-how is sourced from private sector

Tasks of swUws

  • act as an honest broker for the interests of the members (lobbying)
  • direct support and advise in:
    financial management, contractual and legal issues, and performance monitoring
  • strengthen the communication between various stakeholders:
    water supply operators, government institutions, researchers, donors and the private sector
  • provide a platform for exchange of experiences and training (scheme operators and board members); offer services like leak detection, water quality testing and treatment, stock keeping of special spare parts and other services beyond easy reach of individual water and sanitation committees
  • networking with national and international institutions
  • support to government in the development of new laws, regulations and standards
  • conflict management between various stakeholders (members, government institutions)
  • administer a common trust fund for immediate assistance in case of major emergency repairs

Major challenges and opportunities for swUws’ future

  • Secure a sound financial base for swUws services and operations; dependency from government funding versus ensuring an independent voice
  • How to effectively engage in sanitation and hygiene promotion?
  • Going beyond cost recovery for O&M - how to ensure financial capacity of members to meet ongoing costs including expansion of the system to meet growing demand
  • Strengthening the institutional partnership with a similar umbrella organization – UPPER AUSTRIA WATER



Typical small town/rural growth centre in the South-West of Uganda

Typical small town/rural growth centre in the South-West of Uganda








Austria visits Uganda


Austria visits Uganda

Austria visits Uganda: Educational visit to understand specific problems of the South Western Umbrella








Uganda visits Austria

Uganda visits Austria: An institutional partnership with a similar  organization in Austria – UPPER AUSTRIA WATER - assists swUws to provide professional back up services to its members





Download this information on swUws as poster (A3, pdf)