Josephine Kihumuro: Interview with a leader in water and sanitation in Uganda

Themes: Gender International Women's Day 2023 Non-revenue water Utilities
Countries: Uganda


Kihumuro Josephine is a Civil Engineer currently working at the Central Umbrella of Water and Sanitation in Uganda.  Here she describes her role providing leadership in a utility setting including training teams to carry out NRW reduction improvements at the scheme level. Ultimately these actions will contribute to the ambitions of the Central Umbrella of water and Sanitation to improve their billing and secure their financial stability.

Josephine is a jovial and ambitious woman; equally focused on all her different roles as a professional leader, wife, and mother of young teenagers.

“One of my tasks is to spearhead the reduction of non-revenue water (NRW), and one way to achieve my targets is through continuous awareness, tracking and monitoring the improvements in the operation and maintenance of the system. NRW affects the everyday operations for Umbrellas in general; it is a component that has not always been given the maximum attention it deserves.

We recently took part in training from WSUP Advisory, funded by Conrad Hilton Foundation. Before this training, my colleagues and I only had basic knowledge of practical ways to reduce NRW. We had minimal awareness of important practices such as water meter audits, water balance audits and district metering among others.

The training showed us strategic and tactical ways of managing NRW for a growing utility like the Central Umbrella. WSUP Advisory also provided basic plumbing tools, including wrenches of varied sizes, spanners, die sets, and vice, to help ensure NRW is measured accurately and closely monitored. This enabled me and my team to trial out our new skills and apply our recently acquired knowledge.

We have used the NRW assessment matrix, to carry out a self-assessment for each scheme against which performance progress has been reported monthly since September 2023.”

Leading the NRW teams 

“In my role as the NRW manager, I have spearheaded the network mapping and trained our technical teams to do the same. This is no small task given the hustle of the field walking exercise to locate and capture all the assets.

When I ascended to the NRW manager role – in the urban yet fast growing water and sanitation service area – I recognized that to achieve our goals I needed to work closely with other departments. My nurturing instincts came handy in growing the understanding of the NRW concept within the teams and I have been able to attract support from the key departments of commercial and finance so we can collectively work together to address the NRW for the priority schemes.

I started by defining the structure of NRW management; since then, individuals have been assigned clear tasks. Having been equipped with the requisite tools, we set targets and agreed timelines to review progress. From the training of trainers I received, I was able to identify passionate individuals to track and monitor the NRW at the scheme level.

With the aide of the mapped assets, we used the increased visibility of the network to engage various stakeholders. It was during such activities that several illegal consumptions were found at one of the schemes – which we have since managed to regularize for consumption and billing.  Our teams are now working on digitizing the network, and complemental activities such as meter servicing using the tools in place. We are already seeing some very positive results; the Kabembe scheme has reduced their NRW over 6 months from 56% to 39%!

I look forward to a day when my teams will really appreciate how addressing NRW can reduce operational costs and lead to excellence of the water business. And to a day when we’ve mapped all the water supply systems in the umbrella so that operation is made so easy. My dream is to become be able to champion NRW at international level.”