ADDIS ABABA: Sanitation Status

Sanitation provision in Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia) is grossly deficient, as in most cities in sub-Saharan Africa: most people do not have access to a hygienic toilet; large amounts of faecal waste are discharged to the environment without adequate treatment; this is likely to have major impacts on infectious disease burden and quality of life (Hutton et al. 2007). This article briefly summarizes the current sanitation situation in Addis Ababa.


Background information

Addis Ababa is an urban agglomeration with a population of about 3.0 million people (Brinkhoff 2010). It is an inland city on a high-altitude plateau (2100-2800 m), sloping to the south, on the Akaki River. Climate is subtropical highland (Köppen classification Cwb). Some flooding occurs as a result of flooding of several small streams crossing Addis Ababa (Achamleyeh, 2003). Pollutant industrial activities include tanneries, textiles and food processing. There is significant agricultural activity within the metropolitan area (Egziabher 1994, Gebre 2009). A very high proportion of the population (as much as 80%) lives in low-income settlements, including extensive very poor informal settlements (UN-Habitat 2005).

Water resources and supply: overview

Water comes from both river-fed reservoirs (notably Gefersa, Legedadi and Dire) and from groundwater (notably the Akaki wellfield) (Alemayehu et al. 2006). These authors report severe vulnerability of water supply, in terms of both quantity and quality. The UN currently projects water scarcity (i.e. the most stressed category) for Ethiopia in 2025 (UNEP/GRID-Arendal 2002). Current treated water production is about 180,000 m3/day; average consumption by customers with in-plot piped supply is 22 litres per capita per day. We do not currently have data on access levels.

Sanitation access

There is a small sewerage network in the centre of the city, but less than 3% of the population is served. Most households (about 75%) have pit latrines discharging to open drains; about 15% have flush toilets and septic tanks, these likewise often discharging to open drains; a significant minority (about 5%) resorts to open defecation. Public toilets are not common, but pit latrines are often shared between several households. Data from CAS (2005), cited in Van Rooijen & Taddesse (2009); see also Worku & Adam (1999) and Alamayehu (2008).

Sewerage system

Commissioned in 1981, but currently serves only the central part of the city (Kiingi 1998) and < 3% of residents (Alamayehu 2008, Van Rooijen & Taddesse 2009). According to the Wastewater Masterplan (AAWSA 2002), it comprises about 30 km of trunk sewer and 90 km of secondary sewers, serving about 40,000 people via 1800 connections. AAWSA (2002) reports that “AAWSA is […] slowly expanding the network of secondary sewer lines in order to give more people access to the sewerage system”; however, we have no indication of any pro-poor provision.

Septage management (septage = nightsoil and/or sludge from onsite facilities)

Sludge from septic tanks is reportedly discharged to drying beds near the Kaliti treatment plant and in Kotebe Yerer Ber (Alemayehu 2008). For further information, see the Wastewater Masterplan (AAWSA 2002).

Sewage treatment (sewage = sewered wastes and/or septage)

The Kaliti wastewater treatment plant (stabilisation ponds) has a design capacity of 7600 m3/day, but currently receives about 4500 m3/day, of which unintentional water ingress to the sewers may account for 3000m3/day (see AAWSA 2002, Alemayehu 2008). Another plant, Kotebe, receives sludge from Most wastewater is discharged into tributaries of the Akakai, discharging eventually to the Awash River (Van Rooijen & Taddesse 2009).

Sanitation in low-income districts

We are not aware of any detailed mapping of high-sanitation-need districts, or of any specific policy for sanitation improvement in informal settlements. It is estimated that over 80% of Addis Ababa’s population lives in slum districts with very poor housing construction quality, very small plot sizes and little or no urban service provision; some informal settlements are occupied by middle-income families, reflecting very high property prices (UN-Habitat 2005).


Addis Ababa Water and Sewerage Authority is responsible for water supply and sewerage; it also offers a septic tank emptying service.

Sanitation masterplan?

Yes: the 2002 Wastewater Masterplan (AAWSA 2002), which is an update of the 1993 Masterplan. This masterplan considers in an integrated fashion both sewerage and faecal sludge management (i.e. collection, treatment and disposal of sludge from latrines and septic tanks); however, onsite sanitation per se is not covered. The planning horizon is 2020, with a target for this date of about 1 million people served by sewers, 1.4 million with septic tanks and 1.4 million with pit latrines. See also WSSCC (2005), which comments on the national “Water supply and sewerage sub-sector development plan”.

Sanitation financing

Some information of national-level water and sanitation financing is given WSSCC (2005).



AAWSA (2002) Wastewater Masterplan. Volume 1 Executive Summary. 

Alemayehu T et al. (2006) Degree of groundwater vulnerability to pollution in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. IN: Groundwater Pollution in Africa (eds. Yu X & Usher B). UNEP/Earthprint. 

Egziabher AG (1994) Urban Farming, Cooperatives, and the Urban Poor in Addis Ababa. IN: Egziabher AG et al. (eds.) Cities Feeding People: An Examination of Urban Agriculture in East Africa. IDRC. 

Brinkhoff T (2010) City Population.

CSA (2005) Welfare Monitoring Survey 2004 Vol 2. Statistical Report on Indicators for Living standards, Accessibility, Household Assets, Food Security and HIV/AIDS. Central Statistical Authority, Addis Ababa. 

Gebre G (2009) Urban water pollution and irrigated vegetable farming in Addis Ababa. 34th WEDC International Conference, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2009. 

Hutton G, Haller L & Bartram J (2007) Economic and health effects of increasing coverage of low cost household drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to countries off-track to meet MDG target 10. Geneva, Switzerland, World Health Organization.

UNEP/GRID-Arendal (2002)  Water availability in Africa. UNEP/GRID-Arendal Maps and Graphics Library. 

UN-Habitat (2005) Situation Analysis of Informal Settlements in Addis Ababa.

Van Rooijen D & Taddesse G (2009) Urban sanitation and wastewater treatment in Addis Ababa in the Awash Basin, Ethiopia. 34th WEDC International Conference, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2009. 

Worku G & Adam A (1999) Wastewater Management in Addis Ababa. 25th WEDC International Conference, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2009.

WSSCC (2005) Financing water, sanitation and hygiene in Ethiopia. 


Further Reading

For very useful further information, see Worku & Adam (1999), AAWSA (2002) and Van Rooijen & Taddesse (2009).

Addis Ababa City Administration:

Addis Ababa Water and Sewerage Authority (AAWSA):

Designing Wastewater Systems According to Local Conditions - David M Robbins 
Publication Date: Jan 2014 - ISBN - 9781780404769

J Cameron, P Hunter, P Jagals, K Pond (2011) Valuing Water, Valuing Livelihoods: Guidance on Social Cost-benefit Analysis of Drinking-water Interventions, with Special Reference to Small Community Water Supplies, IWA Publishing.

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