Cowater International: Water infrastructure development

Cowater International is one of Canada’s leading management consulting firms focused on providing services to developing and emerging economies and Sogema Technologies is one of Canada’s leading providers of software solutions for public institutions.

Read how these two companies partnered to deliver a smart water utilities management solution for the Barbados Water Authority.

Logo for Cowater Sogema, CCC customer

About Cowater 

Cowater International (Cowater) is Canada’s leading management consulting firm focused on providing services to developing and emerging economies. Since its inception in 1985, Cowater has worked with governments, private sector actors and communities to implement projects that support socio-economic development, institutional strengthening, environmental improvements and advance equal opportunities for all.  

Headquartered in Ottawa and with offices in Brussels, London (UK), Montreal and Nairobi, Cowater has successfully delivered over 2,500 projects and assignments in more than 95 countries.  

About Sogema

Based in Montreal, Canada, Sogema Technologies (Sogema) is a global leader of citizen-centric software solutions for public institutions. With expertise in public finance management, public sector analytics, public sector audit, utility services, and land management, Sogema has been delivering projects around the world so governments can successfully execute their revenue generating strategies, build a solid and scalable foundation for sustainable economic growth and elevate their country’s infrastructure. 

With over 26 government clients, Sogema has implemented solutions in the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Africa, Middle East, Europe and the Pacific Islands.

Exterior of building of Barbados Water Authority

Barbados Water Authority. Source: Cowater.

Exterior of Barbados Water Authority building

Barbados Water Authority. Source: Cowater.

Barbados Water Authority staff inspecting site being dug for water infrastructure

Barbados Water Authority staff. Source: Barbados Water Authority.

Water sanitation project in Barbados

In 2013, the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) made the decision to address the issues they were facing with their water management system. The organization had been struggling with several infrastructure issues that was causing water meters to become damaged or bad after five to seven years of use. This resulted in the BWA losing a significant amount of pumped water, increased water bills for customers, loss of client confidence in the system and revenue loss for the water authority.

Dr. David Estwick, Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management at the time said, “You can imagine the Barbados Water Authority struggling, losing about 40 per cent of the water it pumps down into the ground and at the same time about 20 thousand meters not working. Therefore, it became important that we look for a solution with the highest technology that would give us the type of metering systems that would be highly efficient.”

Having lost their investment grade rating a few years back, the Government of Barbados was under pressure to attract affordable debt financing solutions that would allow them to undertake projects and programmes of national importance that would enable them to build out the country’s economy and infrastructure.

This is where the Government of Canada, the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) and Export Development Canada (EDC) stepped in.

“You can imagine the Barbados Water Authority struggling, losing about 40 per cent of the water it pumps down into the ground and at the same time about 20 thousand meters not working. Therefore, it became important that we look for a solution with the highest technology that would give us the type of metering systems that would be highly efficient.”

G2G for water management and smart metering

In 2015, The Government of Barbados through the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) entered into a $58 million intergovernmental or government to government (G2G) agreement with the Government of Canada through CCC for a new water management and smart meter project. 

Known as the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) Smart Meter Business Transformation Project, the initiative was financed by Citibank and ensured by EDC with an EDC Non-Honouring of Sovereign Loan Facility.

The scope of the project was for Cowater and Sogema to cooperate with the Barbados Water Authority to deliver a large-scale business transformation initiative which included an integrated change management system, hardware and software solutions.

The system would help the BWA to create a more efficient and sustainable public water authority serving the people of Barbados, reduce non-revenue water (NRW), improve customer service, conserve water, and improve operational efficiencies and revenues.

The information systems

The management information systems (MIS) included a Utility Customer Information System (UCIS), a Work Order Management System (WMS) and a Financial Information System (FIS). Each system was designed to work together with the others in real time as part of an integrated solution.

The Utility Customer Information System is designed to

  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Increase productivity due to single source of data
  • Lower NRW due to more accurate readings
  • Reduce billing errors/month by 95%

The Work Order Management System offers

  • Accurate data and higher labour productivity through documented field work
  • Real-time inventory updates and establishment of minimum re-order thresholds
  • Improved service and faster response times through customer outreach tools integrated into WMS

The Financial Information System provides

  • Ability to mine data, perform analysis and make better business decisions
  • Better planning, budgeting, and reporting
  • Ability to make data-driven business process improvements that drive organizational change

Hardware-software integration

The MIS was implemented in tandem with the installation of nearly 100,000 household and 4,000 commercial smart water meters capable of automatically transmitting water usage data to the BWA. Data from the meters is integrated into the information system which enables the BWA to capture and maintain information on its customers and their water consumption more accurately.

“Persons who suffered in the past from having a bill that is $30 this month and then next month it is $3000, some sort of erratic billing arrangements, those will become things of the past with this new smart meter capability,” Dr. Estwick stated.

Reliable metering, better customer service

The reliability of the billing system is partly driven by the selection of the meters for the project. The fact that the meters have no moving parts and send out a radio signal, enhance not only the reading capacity of systems within the Barbados Water Authority it also feeds more accurate data into the new customer information system, financial management system, and work management system.

The expanded management information system has provided many opportunities for the BWA. In cooperation with Cowater, the BWA management team can prioritize and align the MIS operational priorities and enable business process improvements which help provide more efficient and effective processes, including more efficient infrastructure repairs, cost efficient billing, improved customer service and financial reporting.

Continued growth for Cowater and Sogema

Since the Barbados project. Cowater has been involved in a number of other transformation projects around the world. For example, the company was funded by the Asian Development Bank and managed by the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ministry of Energy and Water to improve rural livelihoods through strengthened integrated water resources management (IWRM) and agriculture development by increasing technical and management competencies of ministry staff and other stakeholders involved in IWRM of the Western River Basins.

Sogema continues to implement more technology solutions that allows governments to provide efficient and transparent citizen services. Recently the company announced a contract to upgrade the Integrated Tax Administration System (SIGTAS) for the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. Financed by the European Union, the project aims to modernize the revenue administration system of the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) of the Ministry of Finance.

The Government of the Virgin Islands, the Republic of Mali, the Republic of Senegal, and the Government of Timor-Leste have also made the commitment to upgrade their SIGTAS system to modernize their respective country’s revenue administration system.

Continued Canada-Barbados relations

At the time of the project, Dr. Estwick revealed that Cabinet had given approval for the Ministry to further engage the Canadian Government in several projects over the next few years, including the construction of a reverse osmosis plant and the implementation of a west coast sewage project for water and wastewater management.

This aligns with the countries’ long-standing bilateral relationship which began in 1966, when Barbados gained independence. In 2021, Canada’s exports to Barbados amounted to $48 million and imports from Barbados were worth $18.9 million.

Wharf Careenage Bridgetown Barbados

Barbados Source: Cowater.

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About CCC

The Canadian Commercial Corporation is a federal crown corporation and is only the Canadian agency that offers commercial advocacy, collaborative project development, and international contracting expertise to help Canadian businesses secure contracts with foreign governments at the national, state, and municipal level.


Our International Prime Contractor is a fee-based program where we sign government to government (G2G) contracts with foreign government buyers for the sale of Canadian solutions. 

Our U.S. DoD Prime Contractor program is a free program funded by the Government of Canada and supported by the U.S. Government, to help Canadians sell their products, services and solutions to the U.S. military. To learn more about CCC and how we can help you, contact us.

Last updated: September 2022

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