International Journal of
Water Resources and Environmental Engineering

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. Water Res. Environ. Eng.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6613
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJWREE
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 315

Full Length Research Paper

Water supply and demand scenario of Dilla Town, Southern Ethiopia

Mandefro Chala Debela
  • Mandefro Chala Debela
  • Department of Water Resources and Irrigation Engineering, Dilla University, Ethiopia.
  • Google Scholar
Habtamu Kassa Muhye
  • Habtamu Kassa Muhye
  • Department of Water Resources and Irrigation Engineering, Dilla University, Ethiopia.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 24 August 2017
  •  Accepted: 27 September 2017
  •  Published: 31 December 2017


Access to and use of safe drinking water can contribute enormously to health, productivity and social development. This study was conducted to assess the existing water supply and demand scenario of Dilla Town, Southern Ethiopia. To achieve the objective of the study, a total of 187 households were randomly selected and interviewed by using semi structured questionnaire. To collect the required data, interview schedule, observation, focus group discussions and key informant interviews were used. In addition, different documents were reviewed. The collected data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. The survey result revealed that the town water supply cannot fulfill consumer demand for water. Obsolete supply system, electric power supply problem, lack of institutional capacity and budget shortage are the basic factors for this imbalance. According to the survey results, the average per capita consumption was found to be less than the recommended standard, which is approximately at least 20 L of water per person per day. In line with this, the most frequent complaints by water customers were regular interruption of water supply and unfair water distribution. The collected data also showed that there is prolonged water shortage in the town. Consequently, in order to narrow the supply and demand gap, expansion of water supply services that match with the town development must be carried out, the town water supply service enterprise should devise a mechanism so as to assure the equitable distribution of water among the residents and the concerned stakeholders should discharge their respective responsibilities properly.

Key words: Dilla town, water distribution, drinking water, supply and demand gap.


Many countries in both the developed and developing world face significant problems in maintaining reliable water supplies and this is expected to continue in future years due in part to the impacts of global climate change. Growing populations will further increase the demand for water, with limited cost-effective water supply augmentation options (Dharmaratna and Harris, 2010).No other single intervention is more likely to have a significant impact on global poverty than the provision of safe water. Water is a central theme which can be used to achieve millennium development goals (MDGs) (Schuster-Wallace et al., 2008). As reported by Helena (2010), the current challenges facing the water supply sector includes keeping pace with net population growth, closing the coverage and service gap and ensuring sustainability of existing and new services with improved quality of services.
A good water supply system should fulfill two primary requirements, viz; adequacy and reliability. Budget constraints, low revenues and shortfalls in operation and maintenance have resulted in insufficient expansion of the system and gradual degradation of the service; at the same time the water demands increased and scarcity worsened (Hickey, 2008). According to World Health Organization, 75 L of drinking water per day is necessary to be able to prevent household disease and also 50 L a day for basic parent’s sanitation (Abaje et al., 2009).
Currently, majority of the existing Ethiopian urban water supply and sanitation system designs are obsolete but the rate of rehabilitation and expansion has been lagging behind. Most urban water utilities do not fulfill the principle of cost recovery and self-reliance, which has undermined the interests of the external borrowers. On the other hand, contrary to its huge investment requirement of urban water supply, the flow of funds has remained very low (Ministry of Finance and Economic Development - MoFED, 2007). Estimate reveals that about 52% of the population in Ethiopia traveled half an hour or more to collect water every day (Central Statistical Agency - CSA, 2006).
This long travel distance to the nearest water source directly affects  women and children who are mainly responsible for fetching water. Most girls and children find it too difficult to attend and succeed in school because a considerable amount of their time is used for domestic chores including fetching water. This has an implication on the productivity of women. According to the report of Ministry of Health and Water and Energy, access to safe drinking water increased from 23.1%  in 1998 to 68.5% in 2012. However, millions of people in urban and rural areas have not been getting safe drinking water from an improved water source.
In the case of Southern Nation, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State (SNNPRS), clean water supply access in terms of coverage has reached 53.9% (BoWRD, 2008). According to Edward (2010),  major problems of water supply in urban centers of Ethiopia include low production levels, inadequate distribution systems and leakages in many areas. The administrative center of Gedeo zone, Dilla town, is growing rapidly in recent years as a result of increased trade and being a major transit center, main passage of goods from Kenya. On the other hand, the provision of urban water is clearly observed as a critical challenge in the town. Therefore, these conditions necessitated a research work in order to assess the existing water supply and demand status of the town.



Study site description
Dilla town is located in Southern Ethiopia at a distance of 359 km from the capital city, Addis Ababa, on the way from Addis Ababa to Moyale. It is located at 6° 22´ to 6° 42´ N and 38° 21´ to 38° 41´ E longitude with an altitude of about 1476 m.a.s.l (Figure 1). The mean annual daily maximum and minimum air temperature is 28.4 and 12.8°C, respectively (Demelash, 2010). According to the Ethiopian Central Statistical Agency, the town has a total population of 86,069 out of which 45,207 are males and 40,862 are females. However, Dilla Town Administration Population Affairs, Coordination and Implementation Core Work Process (DTAPA) reported that the projected population of the town is estimated to be above one hundred thousand (Dilla Town Administration Population Affairs - DTAPA, 2016).
The town is bounded by Legedara, Walame and Chichu Rivers. Presently, the town is supplied with water by two different water sources. The first one is Legedara River and the other one is ground water from which six boreholes are developed. The data obtained from Dilla Town Water Supply Service Enterprise (DTWSSE) showed that the production capacities of the boreholes are 13.5 l/s (Millennium), 5 l/s (Chichu number 1), 6 l/s (Chichu number 2) with the three new ones producing 8 l/s each. In addition, there are 36 public stand pipes in the different parts of the town that supply water for those households that do not have access to piped connections (DTWSSE, 2016).
Data source and method of data collection
The survey utilized both quantitative and qualitative methods to explain concepts and measures to demonstrate implications of the issue under question. Primary data was collected from respondents using questionnaires and personal field observation was employed to supplement respondents’ response. Secondary data was collected from related literatures. Structured and semi structured questionnaire  were prepared for the survey. The questionnaire included an introductory part, questions on the characteristics of the respondents, water sources and accessibility, potable water coverage and water supply satisfaction. Data collection was undertaken by both the researcher and enumerators.
Sample size and sampling method
In order to determine the sample size that represents the population, a mathematical formula suggested by Fink and Kosecoff (1995) was employed as presented:
Where N = Sample size;
 Z = 95% confidence level corresponds to the value 1.96;
 p = 0.61 (the 2015 water supply coverage of the town);
 q = 1-p;
 d = proportion of sampling error tolerated at 0.07.
Therefore, 187 households were taken as sample respondents. Since the town is classified into three sub cities, sample households were randomly selected from the three sub-cites purposively based on their population number.
Data analysis and presentation
Qualitative data was analyzed and presented through description, narration and interpretation of the situations contextually. Whereas quantitative data were analyzed and presented using tables, frequency and percentages were used to give clear understanding of the issue quantitatively. The computer software applications SPSS (Statistical Program for Social Science) and Micro soft Excel were used to analyze the data.



Characteristics of survey respondents
As depicted in Table 1, out of 187 interviewed sample households, 60% were female and the rest are male. The age range distribution of the respondents showed that 18% of them were in 20 to 30 age groups, 31% were in 31 to 40 age groups and the remaining were above 41. With regards to marital status, 68% were married, 2% were divorced and the rest were unmarried. Concerning the educational level of the respondents, 2% were illiterate, 76% had formal education and 22% had informal education.
Status of drinking water supply
Water sources and accessibility
Safe drinking water is the birthright of all humankind (as much a birthright as clean air) (Rao, 2002), while access to clean water can be considered one of the basic needs and rights of a human being. The two main water sources of Dilla town are river and ground water. Legedara River is diverted to a treatment plant and distributed to urban residents through a piped system. The non-piped system includes rivers and hand dug wells. With regard to water accessibility, distance and time traveled to fetch water are considered. To most communities of Africa, long distance travel to fetch water is common. According to World Health Organization (WHO, 2006), only 16% of people in sub Saharan Africa had access to drinking water through a household connection (an indoor tap or a tap in the yard).
Out of the total interviewed sample households, 49% obtained water from private tap connection regardless of its frequency, 39% used water from public tap and the remaining got water from water venders. The survey result revealed that majority of the respondents (52%) travelled more than 200 m to collect water from public tap. Some of them (4%) reported distances up to 10 m, 7% from 10 to 50 m, and 14% from 50 to 100 m while the remaining (23%) reported distances from 100 to 200 m from their residence. Similarly, majority of the respondents (48%)  spent more than 30 min to collect drinking water, 13% of them < 5 min, the rest 39% spent from 5 to 30 min (Table 2). An estimate reveals that about 52% of Ethiopian population traveled half an hour or more to collect water every day (CSA, 2006).


Regarding the per capita water requirement, majority (67%) of the respondents reported that they use less than 20 L of water per capita per day which is less than the recommended standard. African Water Development Report (2006) estimated that to ensure the basic water needs of humans, 20 to 50 L of water free from harmful contaminants are needed every day. According to Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE) (2011), basic access of water for urban dweller is 20 L per capita per day within 0.5 km service radius in universal access plan. On the other hand, as per WHO (2008), the basic access of water is 20 L per capita per day within 100 m to 1 km and the average time spent to collect water is 5 to 30 min. More than 1 km of traveling distant in search of water is said to be no access. Thus, majority of households did not have basic access of water for their domestic needs. It implies that water accessibility standards are not well exercised in the town.
Bartram and Howard (2003) underlined that adequate and reliable water supply is critical for coping with every day urban life. Poor access to potable water has negative impact on development. Challa (2011) also indicated that, poor access to water supply and sanitation limits opportunities to escape poverty and exacerbates the problems of vulnerable and marginalized groups. As depicted in Figure 2, the towns’ residences use donkey carts and yellow plastic jars ‘Jerikans’ to fetch water from long distances and some organizations and hotels also use lorries to meet their water demand from public taps.
Potable water coverage
The WHO/UNICEF JMP report of 2015 indicated that the improved water coverage in Ethiopia was found to be 93 and 49% in urban and rural areas, respectively. The country coverage of improved water source usage reached 57%. On  the other hand , 30% of the total Ethiopian citizens rely  on unimproved drinking water sources. In 2015, the potable water coverage of Dilla Town was reported to be 61% (DTWSSE, 2016). Water supply systems in urban areas are often unable to meet existing demands and are not available to everyone, rather some consumers take disproportionate amounts of water and the poor is the first victim of the problem (Bereket, 2006).
The total numbers of potable water customers of Dilla town are 7001 out of which 6596 are private customers and 19 and 194 are commercial and government customers, respectively. There are two jails in the town. As  reported by the key informant, there is chronic water shortage in the jail and as a result they complement their water need from ground and river water. As depicted in Table  3, the piped water coverage increment is very small as compared to the population growth. As reported by DTWSSE, financial constraint and poor management of the existing water supply are the main challenges for the low coverage of the water supply.
Some of the respondents also reported that due to water shortage they incur additional costs and face health problems like diarrhea as they are forced to use alternative sources of water of poor quality. Hunter et al. (2010) reported that a poor water supply impacts human health by causing diarrhea and non-diarrheal disease, limiting productivity and the maintenance of personal hygiene.According to WHO and UNICEF (2013), there is a considerable funding gap to achieve full coverage; hence, more has to be invested in developing sector capacity through strengthening institutional structures especially at regional, district and community levels. Based on Schuster-Wallace et al. (2008), water has suffered from severe under financing. This result from inadequate internal financial capacity in the poor countries to achieve water goals, poor political decisions for allocation of development aid, an overall reduction over time in development aid, and the limited cost recovery potential in poverty stricken regions.
Evidence from empirical research (Vasquez et al., 2009) indicates that improved water supply schemes in many developing countries are not functioning properly. There have been similar studies carried out in some of Ethiopian towns. Generally, the studies revealed that the water demand is more than the supply. For instance, Tizazu (2012) at Yirgalem town showed that, water supply service could not meet water demands of the town with existing capacity. Challa (2011) and Reda (2012) reported that there is low water coverage and frequent interruption. To expand water supply to urban areas, implementing proper demand management strategies is required. Pertinent information on the residential water demand of households is necessary to properly assess the factors that affect residential water demand (Arbués et al., 2003).
Water supply satisfaction
Most countries give first priority to satisfaction of basic human needs for water. The service deficiencies primarily affect the poorest segments of the population in developing countries.      This survey result showed that out of the total respondents, about 96% are dissatisfied with the current service due to frequent interruption and unfair distribution of water whereas the rest reported that they are satisfied with the services. Of the total interviewed respondents, 39% obtained tap water once a week. In some cases , the water may not be available for two weeks and even more (Table 4). The interruption is attributed to malfunction of submersible pumps and power supply interruption. While expanding improved water source schemes is generally essential, it is equally important to ensure that the schemes have increased users’ satisfaction with water quality and availability for everyday use (UNICEF, 2010). The majority of the sample households replied that the water distribution is unfair and variable. As reported by respondents, some area may be served water frequently while other areas stay without water service at all. Consequently, the town water supply service enterprise should devise a mechanism so as to minimize the inequitable distribution of water among the residents of the town.



This study has attempted to examine the water supply and demand scenario of Dilla Town. The water demand of the town is increasing due to urbanization and population growth. The survey revealed that the town water supply cannot fulfill consumer demand for water. Long age of the system, electric power supply problem, lack of institutional capacity, lack of finance and malfunction of submersible pumps are the basic limitations.
The average per capita consumption was found to be less than 20 L/person/day which is less than the recommended standard. In line with this, according to the survey results, the most frequent complaints by water customers are regular interruption of water supply and unfair water distribution. The findings of the data lead to the conclusion that there is a huge gap between the water supply and demand of the town. Consequently, in order to satisfy the water demand of the town the following measures should be taken.
1) Expansion activities that match with the town development must be carried out to meet the water requirements of the town.
2) The concerned stakeholders (DTWSSE, Gedio Zone Water and Irrigation Office, Electric and Power Authority, Dilla branch) should discharge their respective responsibility properly.
3) DTWSSE should devise a mechanism so as to minimize the inequitable distribution of water among the residents of the town.
4) Additional study should be conducted to find out other possible causes for water shortage so as to act accordingly.


The authors have not declared any conflict of interests.


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