NamWater prepaid bulk water system falls short

NamWater's bulk water system has fallen short amid battles with local authorities who still owe the utility approximately N$1.5 billion.

The national water utility has implemented a prepaid water system in some quarters of the country.

A common case of non-payment is the Rundu Town Council. NamWater had from time to time closed water to force the local authority to comply but still failed. The last resort was the installation of prepaid bulk water meters.

Similar action was taken against Rehoboth and Keetmanshoop. 

"The situation has not changed and the debt remains the same. In the case of Rundu, we had to bypass the prepaid water meter system, because of their inability to pay. As such, we could not allow the residents to suffer at the hands of a failing local authority," Agriculture, Water and Land Reform Minister Calle Schlettwein told The Brief.

In addition, Schlettwein said Covid-19 exacerbated the ballooning debts as the nation was allowed to consume water, with the instruction that no taps should be closed irrespective of the debt.

"Those two years of Covid had an effect, even though the directive was clear that use water while you should be paying, but many opted not to," the Minister said.

Schlettwein noted that there are some institutions that have the capability to pay but are deliberately not willing to pay their dues, and those ones will be dealt with. However, those who are proven to not afford it by default will qualify for assistance.

Equally, NamWater CEO Abraham Nehemiah acknowledged that the prepaid could not work because it is not rolled out at the household level.

"It only works better when households are also on prepaid so that the local authorities can collect more then be able to service their bills better," he said.

Other factors he alluded to include inflation and water wastage.

"We have a serious inflation problem thus it is making institutions fail to honour their payment. The aspect of what is happening in LA regarding issues of unaccounted water, where LA should be collecting from users, but the water is going to waste through leakage and so forth," he remarked.

On average local authorities lose 45% to 60% of unaccounted water, resulting in a loss of revenue.

"So for us, we charge them the full amount of the bulk water we are providing. Then they happen not to collect enough to compensate for the losses, thus leaving them a quagmire of unaffordability."

In addition, Nehemiah said NamWater is looking at how to assist unable local authorities, through collaboration on infrastructure upgrades to avoid water uncountability, among other many reforms. 

"We have some funds that we had accessed through Covid-19 that we may use to assist, but we are still engaging to see how we may help them. We have engaged all those local authorities on our list," said the utility CEO.

In addition, Nehemiah said water is a sensitive matter that manifests itself in politics and socio-economics, thus it is inappropriate to just cut off water anyhow.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 24 May 2023 18:10

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