As a social measure to assist citizens, the government asked public utilities not to enforce disconnection for non-payment of bills. It’s a measure that has eased up customers but added pressure on the finances of already cash-strapped Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).
Since the authority closed payment centres two weeks ago on March 30, WASA has seen a reduction in revenue of at least 44 per cent.
In August last year, it was reported that WASA was owed approximately $700 million by customers.
In an exclusive interview with Guardian Media CEO (Ag) of WASA, Alan Poon King describes the most recent drop in revenue as significant.
“We still do want to collect rates where possible, we encourage customers to pay online; we need funding, obviously, to continue operating the business.”
And though some customers are unable to make payments toward their water supply it doesn’t mean that a reliable connection isn’t needed. In fact, it is needed now more than ever, due to the fact that people are being advised to wash hands more regularly and maintain cleaner spaces and clothing.
Poon King said this factor, coupled with several others is also burdening WASA’s water supply efforts.
“The increase that we would have had…superimpose that with the dry season conditions that we are having now and that kind of amplifies our problem.”
Call for patience
The CEO said that while there are some people receiving water for the first time, he conceded that some aren’t that lucky.
He said WASA is doing what it could to alleviate the situation. He asked that they not lose hope.
“The water that we have available we will try to adjust our schedules as best as we can to get water to you in the pipes and if there is a shortcoming there we will have to provide the truck-borne. We will need the patience of the population if you are in such a situation.”
As mentioned there is currently a water schedule in place to help the authority manage its supply to as many customers as possible.
He said the truck-borne supply option is also available and being utilised by many.
He explained low water reserves and a higher demand for water is proving to be a challenge.
People still wasting water
Meanwhile Poon King expressed frustration and disappointment that even amid the water shortfall and high demand some in society are still wasting water.
He said activities like using a hose to wash vehicles and water lawns are still prohibited according to the current water restrictions. He said more monitoring and enforcement are necessary.
“We need to, especially over the next four to six weeks as we transition into the wet season. So we will be having an increased presence.”
He reiterated a previously stated position that the meagre fine of $75 to $225 is not enough and plans are afoot to have that amended. In the past few months at least 70 people have been charged for breaching WASA regulations.
“The law as a whole is subject to a larger review that we are undertaking as one part of the basket of initiatives to improve WASA.”
He said there are figures being considered but isn’t yet ready to make a public pronouncement.
In the meantime, he pleaded for people to do the right thing.
“Conserve, conserve, conserve and ensure that we have the personal responsibility for our water usage.”
WASA at work
Poon King also explained that a lot of work is being done to change out ageing infrastructure, drilling new wells, constructing new water treatment plants and boosting stations, installing and replacing pipelines as well as fixing leaks around the country.
“So all those initiatives are geared toward incremental improvements in the supply but it’s an on-going process that has to continue.”
The WASA boss said even though its workforce is affected by COVID-19 regulations as well, the workers will continue to do what is necessary to ensure reliable water supply to the nation.