Yorkshire Water – keeping the taps flowing in the UK and Ethiopia

4 min read
WaterAid/ Joey Lawrence

Over the past seven years, Yorkshire Water has been supporting WaterAid to provide sustainable water and sanitation facilities in small towns in Ethiopia. Working with communities, utility companies and local authorities, together we have installed taps and toilets, as well as built the necessary skills and capacity to keep the systems running.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, this support has been more critical than ever. Keeping the water supply going means that people in Ethiopia are able to practise good hygiene – something that is often taken for granted in the UK.

Maintaining a clean water supply in rural areas in Ethiopia also enables local businesses to continue operating in these unprecedented times, providing much needed income for families.

Service providers have had to adapt quickly and efficiently to work in a Covid-secure way, whilst ensuring communities do not go without in the face of this global health crisis.

Increasing demand on services

Leyew Animut works for a local water utility in Finote Selam, in western Ethiopia – one of the areas supported by Yorkshire Water. He maintains water facilities, carrying out daily checks to ensure the system is working well and addressing customer concerns.

There is more demand on Leyew’s services due to the pandemic, as families and businesses rely on their clean water supplies to stay healthy and productive. 

“We are just like the health workers, our work is getting busier. When people can’t access water, they think that they could die due to the pandemic. There is a lot of pressure on us because of that.” – Leyew Animut.

Leyew Animut sitting by the tap stand with women filling up their jerry cans with water from the community tap that is connected to an underground pipe system in Finote Selam, Ethiopia. February 2020
Leyew Animut by the tap stand where the community can collect clean water connected to an underground pipe system in Finote Selam, Ethiopia.
WaterAid/ Joey Lawrence

As well as increasing pressures on his services, Leyew has also had to make sure he and his colleagues are operating in a Covid-secure way by working with a limited number of people and ensuring team members socially distance and wear masks.

Helping people and businesses thrive

Before the pandemic, Leyew built an underground pipe system to allow a group of local community members to set up a small coffee shop business, providing jobs to six people. The coffee shop has been able to stay open throughout the pandemic, thanks to Leyew keeping the water supply going.

Enquahunesh used to spend a lot of time each day collecting water, but has now set up a café selling coffee to generate a good income for her family.

Leyew Animut in the coffee shop run by locals. Finote Selam, Ethiopia. February 2020
WaterAid/ Joey Lawrence

Enquahunesh told us:

“Before I had access to tap water in my house, I used to roast and sell corn on the street. I always wanted to sell coffee, but I couldn’t do that because I didn’t have enough water to brew the coffee or to wash the utensils.

"The biggest advantage I have now is that I can keep the utensils and my house clean.

"I can also give drinking water to my customers whenever they need. My customers are now very happy to come to my house and have coffee.”

Leyew Animut in the coffee shop run by Enquahunesh in Finote Selam, Ethiopia.
Leyew Animut in the coffee shop run by Enquahunesh in Finote Selam, Ethiopia.
WaterAid/ Joey Lawrence

Working with the UK water industry

WaterAid works closely with the UK water industry to help empower people like Leyew with the skills and training to plan and manage their water and sanitation services, ensuring they are sustainable.

It is thanks to ongoing support from our partners like Yorkshire Water that we’re able to work with communities to transform lives by providing sustainable water access to communities around the world.

Henry Dixon, Waste Networks Asset Planning Manager at Yorkshire water told us:

“Ensuring our services at Yorkshire Water have kept running throughout the pandemic has had its own challenges, we have all had to learn to adapt and work in Covid-secure ways.

"Having visited Ethiopia with WaterAid in 2017, I witnessed the challenges water services in Ethiopia face with extreme weather conditions alone. I can only imagine the additional pressures this pandemic has caused.

"It is imperative that we work hard to ensure vulnerable communities around the world have sustainable access to clean water.”

Henry Dixon, Waste Networks Asset Planning Manager at Yorkshire in Ethiopia in 2017
Henry Dixon, Waste Networks Asset Planning Manager at Yorkshire in Ethiopia in 2017

Last year presented many challenges which we’re all still grappling with.

But clean water is something we all need, whatever the future holds. With it, communities are better able to protect themselves from the spread of illnesses including COVID-19, and have better opportunities for an improved quality of life.