The use of water meters or other acceptable measuring devices has always been key aspect in water resources management. While many people, especially those using raw water for irrigation and other purposes are very sceptical about the installation of meters in their operations, the use of water meters is a standard practice worldwide, which works to the advantage of both water utilities such as ZINWA and local authorities and water consumers.
It is therefore important that we unpack the benefits of meters for people. To begin with, the Water Act makes it mandatory for water users install, at their own cost, meters or any other measuring device acceptable to ZINWA once they enter into a water abstraction agreement or obtain a water permit from the sub-catchment council.
Water meters help clients take control of their water bills. Clients can use meters to determine whether their consumption is within the range of what they can afford to pay or not.
If they find their consumption to be on the high side, consumers can adjust accordingly. In addition water meters ensure that consumers get billed for exactly what they would have consumed as opposed to being billed used estimates, which are normally used for unmetered consumers.
Clients with water meters can also easily detect water losses within their systems. In standard cases, clients are billed for water that would have passed through the meter and when leaks occur after the meter, they will lead to the resultant monthly bill shooting up.
When the client is metered, he or she can easily detect any unusual movement in his or her meter readings and can immediately rectify the situation. What therefore is important is for clients to learn how to read their meters. This will also help them when they dispute bills because they will have their meter readings with them.
On the part of water utilities such as ZINWA meters assist in determining water losses along the reticulation system. After doing the monthly bills, ZINWA can reconcile what would have been sold and what would have been produced.
The difference will allow them to determine where the water losses are and take corrective action to avert the losses and ensure that the scarce resource is preserved.
Meters are also a critical tariff tool that helps in the identification of consumers using unnecessarily high volumes of water. The current water tariff structure is designed in a manner that ensures a balance between water use and affordability. As such, the tariff remains unchanged for the first 10 cubic meters or 50 drums of water, which are set as enough to sustain a normal family over a period of one month.
When that threshold is exceeded, the tariff starts going as a way of encouraging efficient use of the finite resource. In the case of raw water users who draw water from ZINWA managed dams around the country, especially irrigators, water meters are quite critical for ZINWA to monitor if agreement holders are sticking to their allocations and if any illegal abstractions are taking place.
Water meters therefore allow ZINWA to root out illegal water abstractions along the rivers and other water conveyance channels. It is therefore imperative that water users get properly functional meters so that they can take charge of their water consumption bills.