Innocent Ruwende Municipal Reporter—-
HARARE City Council has started installing prepaid water meters in selected parts of the city in a trial run that will lead to a city-wide roll-out of the $50 million project in March next year. When the programme starts, the prepaid meters will cost between $250 and $300 per unit and residents will be asked to buy them for a percentage that will be deducted each time they make purchases.
The 2 000 prepaid water meters on the trial run will be installed in the Avenues, the central business district, industrial areas and selected suburbs. The use of prepaid water meters will do away with accumulated water bills as residents will only pay for the water they use. Councillors and management held a workshop in Kadoma last weekend to prepare for the roll-out and committed themselves to have prepaid meters on their properties as part of the trial run.
Acting town clerk Mrs Josephine Ncube said the city was going on a multi-pronged campaign to sell the project to Harare residents with a view of getting stakeholder buy-in. “Residents can pay for water as and when they access cash, meaning that for example, people can buy quantities that suit their budgets.
“The use of prepaid water meters will usher in a sense of responsibility as residents will use water sparingly, resulting in excess water being distributed to other areas,” said Mrs Ncube. “Harare City will now be able to reinvest more resources into the development and maintenance of water infrastructure for the benefit of all residents. This will come about because all water users will be paying for the service.”
Mrs Ncube said Harare upholds residents’ right to potable water, but felt there was need to balance the rights of the public and those of the city in service delivery.
“Residents should pay for the consumption of water to enable the city to continuously provide safe, clean potable water,” she said. “The service cannot be for free. Residents should be encouraged to pay for water rather than demand safe, clean potable water without paying for it.”
Mrs Ncube said Harare adhered to affordable water pricing tariffs to ensure water accessibility by all. Over 200 000 properties are connected to Harare’s water network and the number is expected to grow with the inclusion of new properties as more people build houses.
In February, Beitbridge Town Council installed prepaid water meters across the town in a move that improved its bill collection. Chitungwiza Municipality has been trying to implement a similar project since last year. Bulawayo residents have rejected the installation of prepaid water meters and threatened to take council to court.
Government earlier this year gave local authorities permission to install prepaid water meters, saying while it understands that water is a basic human right, residents should pay for treatment of water and the cost of pumping it into their homes. There are at least 200 000 households in Harare set to be installed with the water meters after the trial run, as it will be mandatory for all those in new housing projects to install the devices. The prepaid water system involves the charging of consumers in advance for the amount of water loaded in smart cards.
The city says it will introduce a rate limiter, which blocks water when one fails to recharge, although water will continue to run on too low a pressure for normal use. Smart water meters are usually connected to a wireless network and enable customers to view their water consumption online.