Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
With reports pointing to $2.1 billion in revenue losses at the National Water Commission (NWC), corporate public relations manager at the state entity, Charles Buchanan, says some $100 billion will be required to address the issues plaguing the company.
Buchanan told The Gleaner yesterday that his office has put together a "transformation programme" proposal and is seeking to identify and source the necessary funding.
"It requires significant expenditure and unfortunately it does require some time for implementation," he said. "Our president has indicated that NWC needs in excess of $100 billion for water-supply investment and ... in the region of $100 billion, as well, for waste-water operations."
Buchanan said with these figures, the NWC would not only be improving the operation but expanding the operations to enable some "85 per cent of the population to be receiving piped water supply service of the required quality and reliability at their home".
Water theft a big problem
He said the issue of water theft has continued unabated as the NWC has tried in the past to correct the problem with little success.
"Water theft is a big part of the problem (along with) other things which are a part of the social context in which we operate. It's not for want of trying to deal with water theft; we have had employees who have been shot and injured, who have been attacked violently, have received threats and have had to seek the protection of the security forces simply to try and ensure that persons who receive the service pay their fair share; it's a problem that is very entrenched," Buchanan stressed yesterday.
But this, he said, is just the tip of the iceberg. He pointed out that there are numerous outdated meters in the system coupled with outdated pipelines.
"We have many parts of our pipeline network that are old and are beyond their designed engineering life," he said.
"While it may appear that you need to repair those leaks at great cost, the truth is, when the pipes have reached a certain age, when we do the examination and analysis, the real need is not for repair but the need is for replacement."
He said while the issue of a rate adjustment was one of several steps needed to be taken to address the problems, the "tariff that the commission has had in the past has never covered the full cost of operation".
He said this has led to the NWC "never being able to replace damaged infrastructure in a timely manner".