In Azerbaijan: The Life-Changing Impact of Water

February 16, 2015

World Bank Group

In Siyazan, a few hours’ drive north of the capital, Baku, the ground is brittle and golden with burnt grass. Roads are dusty, and there are almost no patches of green. People here can’t remember the last time it rained, maybe a month ago, maybe more, and they know the summers are long and hot and dry.

But now they’re bearable.

“For 23 years that I’ve lived here, this street didn’t have water, we were asking God for real clean water in our houses—not coming from a tank truck—so finally, when we got this water, it was a huge blessing!” exclaims Reyhan Badalova, as she waters the new, and spindly, fruit trees in her garden. 

Reyhan Badalova’s neighbors say they, too, are grateful for the water running out of their kitchen taps. “We used to use water only drop by drop,” says Sevinj Novruzova as she washes pots in her kitchen. “And we had to be really careful with it. But now we have water and that allows us to keep the house clean. Oh, and we used to bring water in by bucket from other places, and now look!” she says, turning on the tap.

The clean water in the tap comes from a reservoir up in the hills above town. Water utility workers control the reservoir through a new pumping station. With support from the World Bank, the government of Azerbaijan is using part of its oil wealth to improve water and sanitation in places just like Siyazan. And so now, this new system, which just went online recently, means instead of maybe 4 hours of water a day, it now runs 24.


For decades, this is how the people who live in Siyazan got their water; it was trucked in and then sat in barrels outside.

World Bank

The Challenges of Water

“Clean drinking water is a challenge for most parts of Azerbaijan,” says Qardashkhan Adiyev, who is supervising the water project in Siyazan. “People often drink from rivers, which isn’t always safe. But in this particular region, water wasn’t the problem, because of the pipeline to Baku. Getting water to the houses was the difficulty.”

The project is also working on a new wastewater treatment plant, which will produce water fit for irrigation. It has also, with new equipment, cut water losses in the system in half. And it is working to sort out metering, billing and the financial footing of the wastewater company, so it can sustain itself in the future. “This has been rewarding to me and my company,” says Nail Jabbarov, who is the head of construction, “because we know from old times water has been an issue here and bringing water to the people is a noble project.”

Tell that to Mrs. Badalova, who still cannot believe her good fortune. “I come back from work really tired and I need something nice at my house and now I can cook, I can bathe!” she says.

But, because the running water is so new, she still can’t dump out the several barrels, out in the yard, filled with warm, cloudy water. She’s trying, she says, but change, even good change, takes time.


Today, thanks in part to a World Bank-supported project, there is clean running water inside the houses—water for washing up, bathing, and keeping things clean.

World Bank
A new water supply system runs 24 hours a day.

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