Rehoboth’s water success story

Rehoboth’s water success story

THE previously troubled Rehoboth Town Council has managed to turn around its dire financial situation and recorded a higher income than its operational costs for the first time since 1996.

Income from service accounts was N$2 million more than the total billed accounts over the past financial year, resulting in an 85 per cent improvement in cash flow. At the same time, debt to NamWater was reduced to less than N$2 million from a total in excess of N$7 million.These and other positive developments were achieved as a result of a Sida-funded project to improve the management of water services.Rehoboth has been struggling with bad debts since 1999 when supply to the town was cut by half, disrupting life for the 30 000 residents.The results of the project were presented at the fifth WaterNet Symposium held in Windhoek this week.The major change came when new water and sewerage tariffs were developed by a tariff advisory committee consisting of eight members of the community, two officials and a consultant.Franco Feris, Town Treasurer, told The Namibian that people became much more positive over paying their accounts.”People used to say water came from the Lord and they should not have to pay for it.We sat with the representatives from the eight different blocks to explain to them why we need to charge for water.They in turn explained it to residents.”A new equitable and affordable tariff structure benefiting the poor was worked out with the committee, based on a rebate system.This means low-income users with low monthly water consumption (up to 15 units per month) only pay N$65.Residential consumers previously subsidised business and other large consumers.The new tariff structure encouraged residents to use water much more sparingly, said Feris.Water consumption was reduced from 1.8 million cubic metres to 1.3 million cubic metres for the 12 months ending in June.Rehoboth was the first local authority to create loan accounts and an integrated credit control policy for ratepayers.”Arrears used to be a major headache as we were charging interest on it.This was killing people,” said Feris.In the new system debts were placed on a separate loan account.An amount of N$50 per month is subtracted from the account and added to the current account.”This had a big positive effect on our cash flow.”Another money-eating malfunction in the system was identified when 420 water meters (20 per cent) were found to be non-functioning.There were also numerous leaks in the municipal water network and on private premises.The meters were replaced and leaks fixed, which resulted in a reduction of non-revenue water from 598 000 cubic metres per year to 160 000 cubic metres per year.The reduction represents a saving of N$2.1 million.Feris said there had been interest from other local authorities to implement the system.He gave a presentation at Mariental, while Okahandja has already started with implementation.At the same time, debt to NamWater was reduced to less than N$2 million from a total in excess of N$7 million.These and other positive developments were achieved as a result of a Sida-funded project to improve the management of water services.Rehoboth has been struggling with bad debts since 1999 when supply to the town was cut by half, disrupting life for the 30 000 residents.The results of the project were presented at the fifth WaterNet Symposium held in Windhoek this week.The major change came when new water and sewerage tariffs were developed by a tariff advisory committee consisting of eight members of the community, two officials and a consultant.Franco Feris, Town Treasurer, told The Namibian that people became much more positive over paying their accounts.”People used to say water came from the Lord and they should not have to pay for it.We sat with the representatives from the eight different blocks to explain to them why we need to charge for water.They in turn explained it to residents.”A new equitable and affordable tariff structure benefiting the poor was worked out with the committee, based on a rebate system.This means low-income users with low monthly water consumption (up to 15 units per month) only pay N$65.Residential consumers previously subsidised business and other large consumers.The new tariff structure encouraged residents to use water much more sparingly, said Feris.Water consumption was reduced from 1.8 million cubic metres to 1.3 million cubic metres for the 12 months ending in June.Rehoboth was the first local authority to create loan accounts and an integrated credit control policy for ratepayers.”Arrears used to be a major headache as we were charging interest on it.This was killing people,” said Feris.In the new system debts were placed on a separate loan account.An amount of N$50 per month is subtracted from the account and added to the current account.”This had a big positive effect on our cash flow.”Another money-eating malfunction in the system was identified when 420 water meters (20 per cent) were found to be non-functioning.There were also numerous leaks in the municipal water network and on private premises.The meters were replaced and leaks fixed, which resulted in a reduction of non-revenue water from 598 000 cubic metres per year to 160 000 cubic metres per year.The reduction represents a saving of N$2.1 million.Feris said there had been interest from other local authorities to implement the system.He gave a presentation at Mariental, while Okahandja has already started with implementation.

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