ENERGY and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (Ewura), plans to issue guidelines to help water utilities across the country reduce non-revenue water that cost the government billions of shillings annually.
Non-revenue water (NRW), remains one of the country’s top water industry challenges.
Official figures show the average in which water is produced but never reaches the consumer because it is lost along the distribution network is now 33 percent.
EWURA’s official statistics describe that the problem in regional water utilities remain as high as 40.6 percent and 36 percent in districtlevel authorities.
National water projects have a tiniest level at 24 percent, according to Titus Safari, Acting Director of Water and Sanitation at Ewura.
The World Bank calculations suggest that more than 14 billion US dollars are lost every year by water utilities around the world due to NRW.
It recommends that NRW should be less than 25 percent of the total water produced.
The figures are posing a huge challenge to the state that projects to address water leakages and metering inaccuracies— the two major source of non-revenue water to at least 25 percent national average by next month.
Prof Makame Mbarawa, Minister for Water told the National Assembly early this month that the government is committed to reducing water losses in regional water utilities to 25 percent by June 2020.
He said as of March 2020, NRW reached 33 per cent down from 40.63 percent in 2019.
The ministry announced that part of the plan to reduce non-revenue water includes ensuring every customer is connected to water metering, rehabilitation of water distribution pipes and monitoring information given by the general public about water leakages.
Speaking during a brief meeting with the deputy minister for water Jumaa Aweso in Dodoma, Mr Safari said the authority was fully aware of the government plan and is contemplating publishing comprehensive guidelines that will help water utilities curb NRW.
It was not immediately established the details of the guidelines but the government said it hoped EWURA will help end or reduce the level of nonrevenue water which cost the state dearly.
Water leakages due to old dilapidated water infrastructure top the causes for nonwater revenue.
EWURA’s Director of Economics Mr Nzinyangwa Mchany says some infrastructure have been in existence for as long as 30 years.
“This is one of the major problems but we believe that water theft especially through illegal connection and tempering with meters’ account for non-revenue water,” he said.
Experts were quick to suggest that metering inaccuracies or tempering coupled with illegal water connections and poor distribution lines will affect utilities as well as the government target to reduce water leakages, nonetheless non-revenue water.
Ms Khadija Kombo, a water expert based in Dodoma told “Daily News” that authorities must allocate sufficient funding to replace the long-overdue water distribution lines.
But this alone isn’t enough, she said, they need to adopt a special task force unit that will be surveying the lines on a regular basis in additional to receiving information from good Samaritans.
Regional Water Supply and Sewerage Authorities lost an average of 51bn/- between 2016 and 2019 due to water leakages.
The Dar es Salaam and Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DAWASA), suffered the most losing 80bn/-or 43 percent during the same period under review.
Records from Dawasa showed that the authority received 20million US dollars from the World Bank (WB), during the financial year 2019/20 specifically to address water leakages in the country’s commercial city.
EWURA and the government, however, acknowledges that rehabilitating dilapidated water infrastructures and strengthening utilities maintenance sections can help reduce water leakages.
The Water Supply and Sanitation Act No 5 of 2019 mandates water utilities to work with cities, municipals, or towns in setting up by-laws to control illegal water connections.
Observers hope that the new guidelines that will be adopted by EWURA will also help create awareness on how the citizens are entitled to pay for water services.
The national water policy of 2002 highlights the prerequisite of customers to pay for water service with the view of retaining investment and operating costs.
“If people are aware of the cost behind water investment can take part in the protection of water infrastructures as well as revealing those illegally connecting water,” Ms Kombo noted.
Deputy Minister for Water Mr Aweso tasked EWURA to intensify public awareness campaigns in helping the citizens understand their rights and responsibilities on water services.
Aweso says EWURA was established under Energy and Water Utilities Authority Act No 11 of 2001 to regulate both water and energy service.
He said the authority’s job is more than providing operating license and deregistering service operators but also ensuring quality control. “When water users are not being properly billed could lead to theft,” the deputy minister said.
He admitted that there has been a challenge in the billing process and wanted EWURA to get to the bottle of the problem and come up with a lasting solution.
“We have a major problem and it is on the water billing. Some utilities have been hiking bills without receiving approvals from the regulator,” he said adding.
“It’s unfortunate that even the meter readings are not properly conducted yet customers are threatened with water disconnections.”
According to the deputy minister, EWURA had worked perfectly in regulating fuel pricing and that it’s high time it embarks on unscheduled inspections of water meters across the country.
The manager’s nonrevenue water handbook for Africa published by World Bank Institute and USAID acknowledges that one of the major challenges facing water utilities in the developing world is the high level of water losses— from physical losses (leakage), theft of water from the system, or because of water users are not being properly billed.
It says the difference between the amount of water put into the distribution system and the amount of water billed to consumers has a serious effect on the financial viability of water utilities through lost revenue lost water resources, and increased operational costs, reducing their capacity to fund necessary expansions of service, especially for the poor.
The handbook explained the most invisible setbacks in addressing non-revenue water as includes rapid urbanization, environmental pollution, outdated infrastructures, diminishing water supply and poor operations and maintenance policy.
EWURA’s proposed guidelines, according to commentators must strive to also provide solution on inadequate technical skills and technology, financial constraints, incidences of commercial losses contributed to illegal connections and increasing high work ethic and level of industriousness.
Reducing and controlling non-revenue water helps optimize and reduce operational costs, as well as improve water supply reliability.
The impact is also beyond increasing operational revenues but decrease energy needs.
Mr Mchany reveals that 50 per cent of the operational cost is on electricity expenses.
With authorities working behind the clock in managing non-revenue water, utilities can also consider using hydraulic models that involve identifying critical parts of the systems and optimise pressure control, including an active and economic leakage management.
Studies have also indicated successful and long-term management of leakage levels requires an advanced system with reliable data.