Water trucking

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Water trucking is an alternative water source when other, more sustainable sources cannot be found. Trucking is especially useful in emergency situations or as a response to severe drought.


Water truckers supply mostly high-volume water consumers with cisterns (private villas, government and business office buildings). The market for water trucking services is most developed in cities where the concessionaire’s level of service is poor—long cutoff periods and many unserved areas, as in Nairobi, Nouakchott, Dar es Salaam, and Kampala—and less so in cities where the primary water mains reach most of the settled area, as in Dakar and Abidjan.

Purchase of a water tanker truck, even a second-hand one, is a major investment, but may be recouped within a year’s time, especially in the East African cities where demand for alternatives to piped water is strong.

Field experiences

The following countries below show an example of some conditions where water trucking has been essential. This was during the African drought of July 2011, which affected seven million people.


Water shortages in Djibouti City are expected to persist as the peak demand for water approaches with the lean season, increasing the risk of disease. Water access of 60,000 rural people has been supported through water trucking and repair of shallow wells and boreholes.


The WASH Task Force in Ethiopia has called for additional funding between June and October 2011 to support priority water trucking and borehole maintenance and rehabilitation. The cost of providing water is rising due to the physical availability of water trucks, high local demand, restrictions on trucks from Somalia, high fuel prices, and long distances between water sources and delivery sites. At the same time, the rains have elevated the threat of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) in areas previously affected by outbreaks.


Heavy rains in Turkana and some parts of southern Garissa have reduced the water trucking needs by up to 50 percent while pressure on boreholes has declined in several areas. The Water Sector has prioritized water trucking as a key intervention in the short term but says obtaining funds is difficult. Since the beginning of 2011, more than 322,000 people have been reached through emergency measures, such as water trucking; 51 water points have been rehabilitated and 5 newly constructed; and appropriate sanitation has been provided to 308,562 people.


WASH partners are distributing hygiene packages which include soap, buckets for storing treated water and jerry cans to benefit 48,000 families (approximately 290,000 people) through 335 nutrition centres in south central Somalia. Hygiene promotion materials are being distributed to help health workers visiting the nutrition centres.

In June 2011, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) has trucked water to 9.000 internally displaced persons (IDPS).


Click image to zoom. Source: The Use of Water Today. World Water Council.

Examples of investments made by independent water and sanitation providers in African cities.
Source: © International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank.

Usual source of finance Cities Unit cost (US$) Asset life (years) Cost/annual earnings ratio
Water truck Formal or informal loan and
earnings from other activities
Nouakchott 15,000 10 48%
Nairobi 13,000 5 19%
Kampala 7,500 10 13%

Annual operating accounts for three water truckers in Nouakchott, Nairobi, and Kampala.
Source: © International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank.

Nouakchott Nairobi Kampala
Initial investment (US) $15,000 $13,000 $ 7,500
Number of daily clients 2 n.a. n.a.
Volume of water sold (cubic meters/day) 16.0 m3 21.3 m3 54.8 m3
Unit sales price (US$/m3)
Unit cost (US$/m3)
Annual gross revenue (US$) $22,192 $64,889 $86,800
Annual expenses (US$)
Purchase of water
Taxes and insurance
Fuel and maintenance
Depreciation allowance

$ 10,200
Annual profit $8,757 $44,649 $50,858
Daily profit $23.99 $122.33 $139.34

Field experiences

The following project(s) utilize water trucking methods.

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RSR Project 786

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